Required Reading Range Course Reader


An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts



Required Reading Range Course Reader


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Required Reading Range Course Reader R DAVID CROW An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts R R .

CONTENTS INTRODUCTION COMPONENTS What is theory? Saussure and Peirce Linguistic signs Agreement Linguistic community Portfolio HOW MEANING IS FORMED Categories of signs Semiosis Unlimited semiosis Value Syntagm Paradigm Codes Metaphor and metonym Portfolio READING THE SIGN The reader Barthes Denotation and connotation Convention and motivation Language and speech Myth Portfolio 6 10 12 13 16 18 20 24 28 30 34 34 36 39 40 41 42 44 50 52 54 55 56 59 60 62 TEXT AND IMAGE Digital and analogue codes Advertising writing The three messages Anchorage and relay Portfolio 68 70 72 73 74 76 OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Habitus The production of legitimate language Capital Rules The competition for cultural legitimacy Flux and hierarchy Authorised language Portfolio 82 84 86 90 91 92 93 95 96 4 .

UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Unofficial codes Graffiti The graffiti writer Motivation Prestige and excitement Categories Visual dialect Unofficial language and the visual arts Portfolio SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Hyperinstitutionalisation Play and identity Portfolio 104 106 108 110 111 112 112 114 116 120 128 130 133 136 JUNK AND CULTURE Dirt and taboo Rubbish theory Semiotic categories of objects Rubbish as a resource Portfolio 142 144 148 148 154 156 OPEN WORK The open work Information and meaning Openness and the visual arts Openness and information Form and openness Portfolio 162 164 166 168 170 174 176 SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES REFERENCES BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND PICTURE CREDITS 182 186 187 188 192 5 .

6 . to deconstruct their own work to determine why it is not working as they intended. illustrating the timeless nature of the underlying theories. Each portfolio section refers the reader on to creative self-directed exercises. The presentation of semiotic theory is often clouded by difficult language. The terms and theories used to explain visual communication are borrowed from linguistics (the study of language) and semiotics (the study of signs). in practice. The core text remains unchanged as it deals with well-established ideas and theories that are still relevant today. This book is intended to help students unpick the signs in their own work. These function as mini case studies that refer explicitly to theories introduced in preceding chapters. This edition updates the visual reference material in the portfolio pages with carefully selected examples of ‘real’ design presented alongside extended captions. Each chapter provides an overview of a particular facet of semiotic theory. to understand how communication works and. which. The motivation behind this publication is to help students of art and design to find credibility in their practice through a deeper understanding of many of the intuitive decisions they make. if necessary.INTRODUCTION This second edition of ‘Visible Signs’ aims to explore the mechanics of visual language in an attempt to explain how visual communication works. makes the discussion of work unnecessarily challenging.

General System Theory (1968). HOW MEANING IS FORMED Having looked at the underlying structure of language and the sign. but a process of creative exchange between author and reader. 7 . helping us to appreciate the several layers of meaning to a sign and to understand how the reader interprets the way a sign is expressed. COMPONENTS We begin our journey through semiotics by looking at the fundamental building blocks of language. Braziller in Bolinger D. 2. The study of art and design has borrowed heavily from these ideas and here we begin to relate these to a visual language that uses both text and image. 3.’ 1.‘Except for the immediate satisfaction of biological needs. We look at why some signs appear to be quite abstract and why these are still easily read and understood. and the idea of a visual language. READING THE SIGN The transfer of meaning from author to reader is not a one-way process. We introduce Roland Barthes’ idea that semiotics takes in any system of signs. We define the different categories of signs and discuss the structural relationships between them. Language the Loaded Weapon (1980) 1 1. chapter two examines how we extract meaning from a sign. We discuss how signs are organised into systems and how these underlying structures and patterns help to form meaning. man lives in a world not of things but of symbols. Von Bertalanffy L. This chapter moves through a number of theoretical terms. Structuralists developed ideas and theories that demonstrated the arbitrary nature of language and determined the necessary formal conditions for languages to exist and develop.



This chapter continues with Roland Barthes’ ideas about the relationship between text and image. He uses popular culture as a reference point to explain that these different types of signs have distinct structural relationships that can be employed by artists and designers to help control the way that their compositions are read.

Language is a social and political instrument as well as a functional one. As languages are developed, a sense of hierarchy is also developed around those languages. This chapter looks at cultural hierarchy and examines the ways that societies ensure the acceptance and legitimisation of language within their territorial boundaries.

Outside of the recognised and approved use of visual language, there is a way of generating meaning that is independent of such political control. Here we explore the unofficial and informal codes that are used in daily life by many groups in our societies. This includes the rituals of sports fans and the use of graffiti and vandalism as methods of communication. The underlying motivation behind these visual dialects is examined along with the way that these messages are loaded with second-order signifiers related to dissent and resistance.



‘Visible Signs’ looks for the possibility of a visual language that already exists, growing from its own resources and used by a large group of people who could be said to be outside of the arts and media. This might be considered an informal visual language that does not use the economic field as its source of rationale. We will discuss the notion of symbolic creativity and its use by individuals to find ways of visually representing their identities.

We can identify a system by looking at what has been discarded from the system and classified as dirt or rubbish. We investigate the classification of cultural objects and look at the possibility of changing their value by placing them in an entirely different context. Here, we also look at the use of rubbish as a resource for the visual arts. It allows artists and designers to bring new meaning to discarded items and explore alternative ways of creating meaning.

The work of Umberto Eco is a key resource for an exploration into the creative relationship between the author and their audience. Here, we explain the connection between communication and information, and explore how a richness of communication is possible by carefully creating the freedom for the reader to make their own creative associations.


COMPONENTS What is theory? The word ‘theory’ comes from the Greek word ‘theoria’. 12 . meaning to view. The dictionary defines theory as an explanation or system of anything: an exposition of the abstract principles of either a science or an art. to observe or to reflect.1. Theory is a speculation on something rather than a practice.

Both Saussure and Peirce saw the sign as central to their studies. To avoid confusion we will use the term semiotics as it has become more widely known. Saussure and Peirce This new science was proposed in the early 1900s by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913). a Swiss professor of linguistics. which concentrated on the relationship between the components of 13 .The theories that we apply to graphic design and visual communication are taken from a study of the general science of signs known in Europe as semiology and in the USA as semiotics. there were a number of fundamental similarities in both of their studies. Although they were working independently. At around the same time an American philosopher called Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) was developing a parallel study of signs that he called semiotics. Both were primarily concerned with structural models of the sign.

there are also key differences between the studies. linguists looked to the origins of language.1. it is this relationship between the components of the sign that enables us to turn signals. 22). which have become the cornerstone of modern semiotics. A sign is produced when these two elements are brought together. r the sign. into a message which we can understand. For both Saussure and Peirce. Linguists supposed that if meaning could be found in language then the nature of thought itself 14 . as we shall see when we look at how meaning is formed in chapter two. were first heard by students of Saussure in a course in linguistics at the University of Geneva between 1906 and 1911. However. Prior to this. Although they used different terminology. COMPONENTS What is theory? Saussure’s Model for a Sign The two fundamental elements that make up a sign are the ‘signifier' and the ‘signified’. there are clear parallels between the two descriptions of these models (see the diagram on p. The most significant difference is that Saussure’s study was exclusively a linguistic study and as a result he showed little interest in the part that the reader plays in the process. The underlying principles. This was a major part of Peirce’s model. in whatever form they appear. In the search for the source of meaning. the study of language (linguistics) largely concerned itself with historical usage of languages. the way they are organised into systems and the context in which they appear. There are three main areas that form what we understand as semiotics: the signs themselves. Saussure died in 1913 without publishing his theories and it was not until 1915 that the work was published by his students as the ‘Cours de Linguistique Générale’ (Course in General Linguistics).

The cross of St Julian 2. In its early stages. with no distinct relation to the mind. could be found by looking at the origins of language. The Red Cross 4. linguistics was an attempt to explain signs by imagining them as descriptions of a series of gestures. Saussure was unhappy with the way linguists were approaching language. As a result. As a result. linguists were concerned with the structure of language in its own right. Saussure himself was concerned with the study of historical languages and had a particular interest in the comparative grammar of Indo-European languages. actions and sensations. Do not wring 8. At this stage. his theory focused on language and his model is centred on words as signs. These underlying principles are fixed and do not evolve over time with social or technological change. particularly Sanskrit. Saussure was a linguist. No stopping sign (UK) 5. This developed into a comparative study of the forms of words in different languages and their evolution. the way they are organised into systems and the context in which they appear. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Crosses A variety of different crosses. Saussure proposed an entirely different way of looking at language. which all speakers or bearers of a language have in common. by returning to the essentials and looking at language as a system of signs. The meaning of each cross is dependent on its context for its meaning. The cross of St George 3. Prior to his post at Geneva. 1. If we could understand how the system of language works then this might lead us to how meaning is formed. Hazardous chemical 7. No smoking 15 . Positive terminal 6. One crucial difference in this approach was that Saussure and the structuralists were concerned with the underlying principles of language.There are three main areas that form what we understand as semiotics: the signs themselves. as he felt they had not determined the nature of what they were studying.

Each of these examples contain the two fundamental elements which make up a sign: the signifier and the signified. language is constructed from a small set of units called phonemes. A word became known as a signifier and the object it represented became the signified. In written form. which make up language. these words then represent objects or. ‘o’ and ‘g’ represent the sounds. has three phonemes: d. can represent a sound. These are the sounds that we use in a variety of combinations to construct words. whereas in France it is ‘chien’. has been sacrificed in order to give a limitless number of meanings on a higher level as they are reassembled to form words. for example the letter ‘d’. more accurately. the collection of phonemes that make up the signifier are different. the letters ‘d’.1. In English-speaking countries. In different languages. cot clog crocus cannon cross crow signified collar calf dog signifier this is a dog this is a copy this is a drawing Linguistic signs According to Saussure. A sign is produced when these two elements are brought together. in Spain ‘perro’. our four-legged friend is called a dog. COMPONENTS What is theory? From an early age we are taught the relationship between the signifier and the signified. in Italy 16 { º sign this is arbitrary . What Saussure outlined is a system of representation. These noises can only be judged as language when they attempt to communicate an idea. but it remains one of the most fundamental building blocks in the structure of language. In this system a letter. for example. To do this they must be part of a system of signs. a mental picture of objects. This is not something we are conscious of. A collection of letters (a word) is used to represent an object. In turn. o and g. The word ‘dog’. The meaning of the individual units (the phonemes).

the word ‘gun’ cannot kill you and the word ‘pipe’ does not resemble the object used to smoke tobacco. Just as there is nothing book-like in the word ‘book’. Meaning and the Structure of Language (1970) ‘Duality freed concept and symbol from each other to the extent that change could now modify one without affecting the other. the word ‘dog’ does not bite. the word used to describe a dog bears no relation to the thing it represents. This divorce between meaning and form is called duality. Just as the letter ‘d’ bears no relation to the sound we associate with it. whereas in France it is ‘chien’. What this shows us is that the relationship between the signifier ‘dog’ and the thing signified is a completely arbitrary one.’ 1 ‘cane’ and in Germany it is ‘Hund’. With few exceptions. any similarity is accidental.can e do g Hund ien ch per ro In English-speaking countries. in Spain ‘perro’. 1. 17 . in Italy ‘cane’ and in Germany it is ‘Hund’. What this shows us is that the relationship between the signifier ‘dog’ and the thing signified is a completely arbitrary one. Chafe W. Neither the sounds nor their written form bears any relation to the thing itself. our four-legged friend is called a dog.

Below – Symbols used by the US Department of Transport. Furthermore. COMPONENTS Agreement Three Versions of Signs for Man and Woman Left – Runes. for example. Each language has a series of arbitrary signifiers that exist independently of any other language or dialect. for example. There are onomatopoeic words that in some way imitate the things they represent through the sounds they make. There are two exceptions to this rule. We cannot simply replace the arbitrary name for one object in one language with the name in another language. which might describe an action or the construction of the object it represents. However. languages define their own categories. A keyboard in English is ‘teclado‘ in Spanish. It is its use in social practice that helps us to understand its meaning. Designed by David Crow for the religion issue of ‘Fuse’ magazine. these agreements can be made quite independently of agreements in other communities. the translation into French would throw up a range of different words. there are signifiers in one language that have no direct translation into other forms of language. could be described as a bow-wow. Saussure proposed that this was true of any language or dialect.1. issue number eight. describes the object used for typing words. All that is necessary for any language to exist is an agreement amongst a group of people that one thing will stand for another. Right – Signs from the font Creation 6 based on the runes. Saussure also pointed out that language is not just a set of names chosen at random and attached to objects or ideas. Similarly. All that is necessary for any language to exist is an agreement amongst a group of people that one thing will stand for another. this type of second-order signifier is only of use in English and does not transfer to other languages. 18 . A keyboard. So we can see that the relationship between the sound and the thing it represents is learnt. A gun as a bang-bang. but the fact that we can readily identify them as exceptions only reinforces the overriding rule that ordinary signs are constructed from arbitrary relationships. It is quite literally a board that holds the keys. all from the same signifier. A dog. The second exception is where the sequence of sounds that make up the word or signifier is constructed from two separate signs. Where English uses the word ‘key’ to represent something that we press to type or open a door or play on a piano or a significant idea or moment. Languages do not just find names for objects and ideas that are already categorised.

19 .

Wittgenstein L. a painting of a pipe. It is not the physical reality of a pipe. This idea of arbitrary representation based on agreement freed art from a tyranny of words and was explored with much invention by the visual artists. Each one is labelled as in a child’s picture book. three of the images are incorrectly labelled whilst the fourth image is labelled correctly. COMPONENTS Agreement René Magritte The Betrayal of Images 1929 © ADAGP. Wittgenstein. 2. Magritte labels an image of a pipe with the phrase ‘This is not a pipe’. show a collection of objects arranged in a grid. If the community splits then the changes will take different directions with different agreements and eventually the members of one community will have difficulty in understanding the other. changes in language are likely to be small and everyone can easily adopt or be aware of the changes in meaning. London 2010 The text beneath the painting is neither true nor false. Philosophical Investigations (1953) in Gablik S. This presented the opportunity for artists to make poetic associations between signifiers and the signified.1. a philosopher and contemporary of Magritte’s. The paintings by the surrealist artist René Magritte in his series entitled ‘The Key of Dreams’ (1930). a signifier for ‘pipe’ but not a pipe itself. in this case. wrote that: ‘the aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. However. it is a representation of a pipe. In ‘The Betrayal of Images’ (1929). Paris and DACS. Magritte (1970) Linguistic community The group of people making the agreement became known as a linguistic community.’ 2 20 . Both these paintings highlight the arbitrary nature of language and invite the viewer to rediscover the ordinary. As long as a community remains intact.

21 .Marcel Broodthaers The Farm Animals 1974 © DACS 2010 The viewer attempts to make new signs by searching for associations between the cows and the car manufacturers.

Zeman J. } r In a later example. a word. the sign (sometimes referred to as the representamen S/R) is very similar to Saussure’s signifier (Sr). which is based on the 3. Peirce’s Theory of Signs (1977) in Sebeok T. Peirce’s model for the sign is triangular and deals with the sign itself. Whereas Saussure was primarily interested in language. In this case. for example. Charles Sanders Peirce is the philosopher who is recognised as the founder of the American tradition of semiotics. This is the physical evidence of the sign. the viewer makes new signs in their mind’s eye by searching for an association between the images taken from nature and the names from international manufacturing. the pop artist Marcel Broodthaers uses the same principle to label a series of cows with the names of automobile manufacturers in ‘The Farm Animals’ (1974). a photograph. Peirce was more interested in how we make sense of the world around us. This is not merely the user of the sign but a mental concept of the sign.1. A Perfusion of Signs (1977) 22 . Saussure’s signified (Sd) becomes the interpretant (I) in Peirce’s model. COMPONENTS Agreement Combined Model for a Sign On the left Saussure’s model for a sign and on the right the version proposed by Peirce. a painting or a sound. the user of the sign and the external reality – the object (O) – referred to by the sign. As we can see. This can be. the two models are remarkably similar despite the difference in terminology. In this model.

23 . but its meaning can vary depending on the reader of the sign. The emotional response to the word ‘book’ will vary depending on the reader’s experience of books. that is. or perhaps a more developed sign. where for others it may be a suspicious and defensive response based on the book as an instrument of official institutions. The sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The interpretant is not fixed.‘A sign is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. The sign stands for something. It does not have a single definable meaning.’ 3 user’s cultural experience of the sign. its object. creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign. For some it may be a comforting and affectionate response based on a lifetime of reading and escape through literature. It addresses somebody.

and the message in example seven is carried through humour for those who have prior knowledge of western comic art. Noah Hilsenrad 4. Julien Bouvet 6. Jack Farrelly 7. For some cultures. Eric Robinson 3. example six will communicate on a deeper level beyond the linguistic message. Example three relies on a knowledge of industrial pictograms for parts of the human body. it has a smaller and more distinct linguistic community as it relies on the particular cultural knowledge of a twentieth-century painting. Christian Eager 2. 24 . but we have a particular sign in each of our cultures (linguistic communities) that has been agreed as the legitimate sign. Example one has no graphic mark to cancel or strike through the cigarette and therefore will only have meaning for a linguistic community that recognises a red circle with a horizontal white bar as a road sign barring entry. the linguistic signs (such as examples four or nine) will have no meaning because the relationship between the act of smoking and the words used to describe it are arbitrary and culturally specific. Phil Ward 5. John Paul Dowling A mixture of linguistic signs and symbols collected by Daniel Eatock. Linus Kraemer 9. COMPONENTS Portfolio 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Creator: Daniel Eatock Title: No Smoking Exemplifies: Agreement/Linguistic community 1. Monster Kid 8. Similarly.1. Any of these signs could be used to signify no smoking.

) 25 . In this context. these signs can be read as a global signifier: not just man or woman but all men or all women. have been learnt as part of a distinct system and form part of an international agreement. they simply represent gender. Their placement or context also affects their meaning.Creator: Andy Gilmore Title: Illustration for ‘Wired’ magazine Exemplifies: Agreement The pyramid structure may have a universal meaning through its natural geometry but the second set of signifiers. Used individually. as in this illustration. In multiples. whereas on a door they would signify the function of the room in addition to the gender. the signs representing man and woman. the reader tends to read the scale and see them as a population. (See also metaphor and metonym in chapter two.

as their meaning varies from one part of the world to another. At the foot of the poster the sign is combined with other signs to make words.1. This arbitrary nature of signs is known as duality. Clearly. 26 . so the author can improvise around this basic shape to the point of abstraction without losing the basic meaning. these signs are arbitrary. The repeated shape we know as the letter ‘A’ is well understood and deeply embedded in our visual language. names and so on. COMPONENTS Portfolio Creator: Post Typography Title: Alphabet – Poster Exemplifies: Agreement/Duality This poster shows a variety of different representations of a phoneme or sound. which in turn are signifiers for places.

The signifier for the apostrophe is subject to agreement amongst linguistic communities in the same way as an alphabetic signifier.Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES pages 182–183 Creator: Sagmeister Inc. Punctuation marks are part of a set of signifiers that carry a grammatical concept rather than a sound. 27 . In this case. These signifiers exist beyond spoken or written language because the idea they represent can be applied across many languages. and consequently the linguistic community is much larger. Title: Happiness is a Warm Gun Exemplifies: Agreement This poster is part of a series celebrating punctuation marks. The title comes from the idea that the apostrophe has the job of eliminating a letter. the agreement is found on a much wider scale across a range of spoken and written languages.



2. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) 30 .’ 1 This chapter looks at the various ways in which meaning is formed in a sign. de Saussure F. To help us do this they categorised signs in terms of the relationships within the structures. Both Saussure and Peirce agreed that in order to understand how we extract meaning from a sign we need to understand the structure of signs. 1. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Categories of signs ‘In a language state everything is based on relations.

Peirce defined three categories of signs: Icon – This resembles the sign. The danger of fire is linked to the forest through its physical position (the sign is on the edge of the forest) and by the use of an ideogram of a tree. which are very similar to the categories used by Peirce: Iconic – These are the same as Peirce's icons. In the case of onomatopoeic words. 31 . which depends on local knowledge. An index/symbol. It is also possible to have iconic words. Saussure was not interested in index signs. 1 2 3 Signs 1. where the sound resembles the thing it represents. such as at a junction or at the brow of a hill. 2. The letters of the alphabet are symbolic signs whose meanings we have learnt. Arbitrary – These are the same as Peirce's symbols. A photograph of someone could be described as an iconic sign in that it physically resembles the thing it represents. 3. Flags are symbols that represent territories or organisations. In this category. Symbol – These signs have no logical connection between the sign and what it means. It functions through agreed rules. The reader will have had to learn the correct codings of all these signs in order to understand their meanings. The red cross and the subsequent words are all symbols. they can also be iconic signs. Index – There is a direct link between the sign and the object. he was primarily concerned with words. As a linguist. Words are symbolic signs. Onomatopoeic words like 'bang' or 'woof' could be described as iconic language. Traffic signs in the street are index signs: they have a direct link to the physical reality of where they are placed. smoke is an index of fire and a tail is an index of a dog. They rely exclusively on the reader having learnt the connection between the sign and its meaning. Saussure categorised signs in two ways. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. They resemble the thing they represent. The red cross is a symbol that we recognise to mean aid. This sign for a shopping centre in Manchester is signposted using an iconic sign.

The mark on the sign that resembles the lights is both an icon and a symbol. which can be mapped on to his triangular model. Furthermore. it is part of a set of signs for which we have an international agreement about their meanings. secondness and thirdness. 32 . It is the physical relation of one thing to another. it can be said to be iconic.2. It relates the sign to the object as a convention. Firstness – this is a sense of something. The red triangular frame around the sign is a symbol. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Categories of signs BLUE It is important to recognise that whichever terms you use. The association we have in our minds between the Stars and Stripes and the United States is a mental relationship that relies on a convention. It could be described as a feeling or a mood. it is also a symbol. He labelled these properties firstness. which warns us that we are approaching traffic lights. We have learnt what the signs mean. The traffic sign we discussed earlier functions on this physical level of fact. when this traffic sign is placed in the street next to the road junction it also becomes an index sign. For example. To say that you are feeling 'blue' could be said to function on this first level. let’s look at the traffic sign. which we understand as a warning sign. It is the level of general rules. We may even have been tested on their meaning as part of a driving test. Secondness – this is the level of fact. However. As it physically looks like the thing it represents. That is to say. Thirdness – you could think of this level as the mental level. the categories are not separate and can function together in sets. Peirce also identified three levels or properties for signs. which bring the other two together in a relationship. In reality. its meaning is in part formed by where the sign is placed. It is an icon/symbol/index sign.

As an object it is a symbol in that it utilises a convention that is learnt and as an interpretant it is an argument because it enables us to understand the sign as part of a general system of knowledge. as its signifying element is primarily due to a law or convention. in turn. an index or a symbol and. Quality 1st 2nd 3rd Qualisign Icon Rheme Brute Facts Sinsign Index Dicent Law Legisign Symbol Argument David Shrigley Red Card Above – The representamen of a red card can be seen as a legisign. Peirce’s work on the classification of signs became increasingly complex as he refined his original propositions. a sinsign or a legisign. secondness and thirdness) and the columns are aspects of being. the object and the interpretant. a dicent or an argument. The diagram underneath shows how these are mapped onto Peirce’s elements of a sign: the representamen (or sign). each of these qualities can be found within each of the elements. This generated a complex grid of sub-classification as shown above. one of the three types of object and one of the three types of interpretant. 33 . In 1903.Right – In the table. Every sign also has an object and can be classified as an icon. In other words. he divided the properties into three broad areas and classified them accordingly: qualities (firstness). object and interpretant) can be mapped against these qualities and. brute facts (secondness) and law (thirdness). the rows are the categories (firstness. Every sign has a representamen (sometimes known as a sign vehicle) and so can be classified as a qualisign. Each of Peirce’s original three elements of signification (representamen. All signs then become classifiable as combinations of each of their three elements. as every sign has an interpretant it can be classified as a rheme. it can be one of the three types of representamen. similarly.

iconic.2. This is a symbolic sign that we have all learned and it is also. we looked at the terms used by Peirce in his triangular model of a sign. is commonplace in our reading of signs and we will rush through these chains of meanings at such speed that we hardly notice the chain at all. white is used for funerals. the interpretant. where the interpretant in one sequence becomes the representamen of the next sequence. 34 . Sportsmen wear black armbands to show respect for those who have been lost. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Categories of signs Semiosis Peirce uses the term semiosis to describe the transfer of meaning. One of the most visible examples of this is the symbolic use of colour in different cultures. called unlimited semiosis. It is an exchange between the two that involves some negotiation. and could create the impression of a wedding to a Western European who has quite a different understanding of the symbolic use of white. Unlimited semiosis In the previous chapter. the act of signifying. However. To use Peirce's terms. when we consider meaning we must recognise that this triangular process may happen more than once from one starting point. in the mind of the reader. in other cultures across the world this relationship between colour and loss is quite different. we are familiar with the colour black as a symbol of death and mourning. However. In Western Europe. culture and their experiences will all have a bearing on how the sign is read. for example. The representamen signifies an object. their background. the interpretant resulting in our mind from the first representamen can then become a further sign and trigger an infinite chain of associations. to a degree. education. which is based on Saussure's model of the sign. Funeral directors wear black jackets and it is usual for those who attend to wear black. This is similar to Barthes' structure of myths. which in turn conjures up a mental concept. The meaning of the sign will be affected by the background of the reader. What is distinct about his view of semiosis is that it is not a one-way process with a fixed meaning. It is part of an active process between the sign and the reader of the sign. which is a complete reversal of these values. This is best understood as a diagram (see opposite). This phenomenon. In China.

R 1 O I /R 2 O I /R 3 O Unlimited Semiosis The triangular process described by Peirce. I /R 35 .

2. For Saussure. which Saussure explains using the terms syntagm and paradigm. the signifieds. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Value For Saussure it was what he called 'value' that determined the meaning of a sign. as he has pointed out.’ 2 This is essentially a theory of combination and substitution. He looked at what we mean by something in relation to what we do not mean by something. Saussure focused on the relationship between the sign and the other signs in the same system. not poster. Sound and thought cannot be divided. To illustrate this. ‘Language is a system of interdependent terms in which the value of each term results solely from the simultaneous presence of the others. 2. He calls this signification. Saussure has a different term for the transfer of meaning. the meaning of each piece does not come from the relationship between the front and back of the paper but from the relationship of one piece to another. to categorise reality so that we can understand it. We cannot cut the front of the sheet without cutting the back at the same time. not film. which is unique to our particular culture. In his system. They are a part of our communication system. de Saussure F. which can be arbitrary. Saussure describes language as a sheet of paper with thought on one side and sound on the other. The signifieds are artificial things that are made by us and our society and culture. but from the relationship between the sign and the other signs around it. If we cut the sheet of paper into three pieces. book means not magazine. signification is achieved by using the mental concepts. The meaning comes not from the relationship of this sign to reality. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) 36 .

sound ¡ sound ¡ sound .

thought ¡ thought ¡ thought .

When we are writing we call this convention grammar. ‘ The idea or phonic substance that a sign contains is of less importance than the other signs that surround it. 3. a similar thing that can be compared. when we are dressing ourselves for the day we might call it taste. As with the previous examples. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) 39 . where the combinations are governed by conventions. In visual terms. where each sign has a syntagmic relation to the signs that go before it and after it. collars and cuffs. which are the individual garments. the clothes we wear are a syntagm made up of units. Take the sentence. de Saussure F. 'The girl reads the book. a dissimilar thing that can be exchanged.The value is always composed of two things: 1. The garments themselves are also syntagms. 2. The word 'book' is a syntagm using a set of units – b/o/o/k. These conventions or rules are a feature of the syntagm.' The words are the signs.’ 3 Syntagm This is a collection of signs that are organised in a linear sequence. where each garment is made of units such as sleeves. We all create syntagms every day. Proof of this is that the value of a term may be modified without either its meaning or its sound being affected. A sentence is also a syntagm. solely because a neighbouring term has been modified. which are arranged into a syntagmic sequence. the value of these units (signs) can be affected by their combination with the other signs. The value of the sign ‘book’ is affected by the other signs around it.

These are all part of a paradigm that we recognise as part of the same set. which in this instance represent various events. the units in the set have something in common. to form 'b-o-n-k'. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Value David Crow Creation 6 Sketches from the development work for the Creation 6 font. The way that we use language creates another set of paradigms. When we make choices from this paradigm. Each subset within the font is a paradigm in itself. where '5' is not and '+' is not. we change the meaning entirely. In typography. If we substitute an 'n' for an 'o' from the alphabet paradigm in the syntagm 'b-o-o-k'. technobabble and bad language. we create words that are part of another set of paradigms. such as legal jargon. 'A' is part of the paradigm that is the alphabet. we are faced with a series of individual choices where we can substitute one sign for another in the same set. whether they are words. we could say that FF Din Regular is part of a paradigm that includes the entire set of weights that make up the FF Din family and in turn this family of typefaces is part of the paradigm of sans-serifs. The symbols circled are all part of a paradigm of found images. such as nouns or verbs. Paradigm The meaning we get from a collection of signs (signification) does not come from these linear combinations alone. The way we choose to apply colour to a painting is part of another 40 . When writing poetry we could describe the rhyming words as paradigms based on sound. When we are making combinations of signs. The way we fix one part of a garment to another is a choice made from a set of possibilities that form a tailoring paradigm.2. each unit is obviously different from the others in the set. 2. sentences or outfits. The two basic characteristics of a paradigm are that: 1. We can take the letters of the alphabet as a simple example.

the way we edit from one sequence to another is a choice made from a paradigmical set of conventions where the ‘fade’. which use codes with no clear distinction between the choices. In video. is an attempt to do just this. The marks produced by a paintbrush or the sounds used in music could be described as paradigms. some of the paradigms have a fixed number of units to choose from. the ‘dissolve’ and the ‘cut’ all have meanings of their own.FF Din light FF Din regular FF Din medium FF Din bold FF Din black paradigm. it may be the way we arrange sounds together to form melody. which are called digital codes. These types of codes are easy to recognise and understand as the units are clearly defined. for example. such as the alphabet or the number of weights in a typeface family. Musical notation. 41 . Codes As we can see from these examples. it is common for us to attempt to impose digital notation on to analogue codes to help us categorise and understand the codes. the range of choice is unlimited and the divisions between the choices are unclear. In practice. There are also paradigms that do not have a fixed number of choices. In music. These types of paradigms are made of codes. Our choice of car and the choices we make to decorate our homes with objects are made from a set of paradigms. This type of code is called an analogue code.

Fundamentals of Language (1956) 42 . The value of the sign has been formed by its relationship with the other signs around it. and Halle M. Where we want to signify reality in some way. we can transfer the characteristics of one object to another. In this case. The pins are part of a paradigm of fasteners. David Crow Nervous Robot Above – The characteristics of a butterfly in flight are used as a metaphor for feeling nervous by simply placing the image in the stomach of the robot. We would naturally make assumptions about the individual wearing the suit based on this change. Where we substitute one word or image in a sequence for another. A metonym works in a similar way except that it is used to represent a totality. it may be easier to understand using the terms metaphor and metonym4. The paradigmical choice to remove the sleeves from a Savile Row pinstripe suit and refasten them using safety pins. By placing an image of a political figure inside the cloud the bad news is associated with that figure. where a product is imbued with particular properties it is not readily associated with. We can also apply this type of metaphoric substitution to other forms of media. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Value Above – The dark cloud is used as a metaphor for bad news. Jakobson R. the image of 4. The irreverence and immediacy of the pins is transferred to the suit and would become part of our overall reading of the garment and the statement that it makes. would entirely change the way the suit is read. if we want to represent all children we might use an image of a child.2. That they are not normally used as the conventional way of fastening a well-tailored suit can be used to change the meaning of the suit. we are forced to choose one piece of that reality to represent it. This use of metaphor is very common in advertisements. Metaphor and metonym In terms of the practical application of paradigmical choice. For example.

where meanings of words. meaning comes largely from the things we did not choose.The important thing to remember is that where there is choice. The important thing to remember is that where there is choice. there is meaning. there is meaning. It is also possible for the collection of signs in any given paradigm to change over time. 43 . images and gestures change through the natural evolution of social change. all children. one child is being used as a metonym to represent the whole. There is not necessarily any fixed number of options in a paradigm and each individual is likely to generate a different range of choices. With all these paradigmical choices.

As Saussure stated. The silver decoration is unmistakable as an iconic signifier for a hand grenade. The limited-edition ‘Xmas Declarations’ were packaged in sets of six.Alt. the value of a sign comes from the other signs around it. It is made more realistic by its metallic finish and by its reproduction at a size not dissimilar from the weapon it represents. The aim of the decorations was to highlight the effect global conflict has on communities. a donation was made to the youth initiative Ctrl.2. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Portfolio Creator: Dorothy Title: A Dead Thoughtful Product Exemplifies: Icon/Value Dorothy designed a set of alternative Christmas decorations to encourage people to stop for a second and think about what's happening elsewhere in the world at Christmas.Shift to support its campaign against global conflict. The potency of the signifier makes the relationship between the Christmas tree and the signified all the more powerful. The message the designers intended is communicated through this transfer of value from one sign to the other. 44 . For each pack sold.

a distinctly different paradigm. The value of the most obvious sign is now affected by the other signs around it and the reader is invited to compare and contrast the idealised vision of our society with a contemporary social reality. The stylistic mannerisms of classic French textiles give a sense of heritage and tradition. architectural and human contexts. on a closer inspection the reader finds images of a contemporary cityscape. 45 . The toile designs include a balance of decorative. The signs that were most obvious are now undermined as they are juxtaposed with a set of signs from the underbelly of urban social realism. London Toile (Below) Exemplifies: Value Timorous Beasties are renowned for producing hand-printed fabrics and wallpapers. However. and this is what you see at first glance.Creator: Timorous Beasties Title: Glasgow Toile (Left). Their work is a wayward take on the often twee world of textiles. They are known for their take on the ‘Toile de Jouy’ fabrics of Napoleonic France and have designed a number of toiles based on different cities around the world.

2. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Portfolio 46 .

47 . but in this instance the fingerprints clearly relate to typing because of their relationship to the keys. The flower petal also carries with it a set of qualities and associations that act as a metaphor when they are transferred to music. which can have a number of meanings. In this case. This transfer of the characteristics of one idea to another is a good example of how metaphor is used in visual compositions.Creator: Jason Munn/The Small Stakes Title: Monsters of Folk – Poster Exemplifies: Value/Metaphor Opposite – The idea or appearance of a sign is less important than the other signs around it. despite the fact that keyboard keys are rarely circular. This could be described as an index sign because its meaning comes from the direct link between the sign and its physical placement – the fingerprint and its position on the keyboard. The less a sign is motivated the more the reader has to rely on having learnt the associations (see p. Creator: Jason Munn/The Small Stakes Title: National Novel Writing Month – Poster Exemplifies: Icon/Index Above left – An arrangement of circles signifies a keyboard in this image. Creator: Jason Munn/The Small Stakes Title: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Poster Exemplifies: Icon/Metaphor Above right – The turntable and stylus arm could be described as iconic symbols because they resemble the things they represent. We can see in this example that the value of a sign (a flower petal) can be modified without changing its appearance but simply by modifying the neighbouring sign. We recognise this configuration of shapes easily because the layout visually resembles the keyboard many of us use on a daily basis. The drawing of a flower petal/plectrum in this example is a very simple geometric silhouette and could be described as unmotivated. 56). The designer has relied on the reader finding the meaning of this shape by being able to instantly connect it with a flower or with a guitar fretboard. changing it from a flower to a fretboard (see p. The designer has overlaid this sign with qualities of a traditional artist by adding a brush and the brushmarks of a painter. The fingerprints are a signifier. 39). The sign is iconic in that it looks like the thing it represents.

The collage is then emblazoned with the word ‘SEASON’ to imitate a season ticket.2. Reflecting the conference theme of big ideas. created by adding a perforated edge and distinctive cutaway corners. The additional graphic shape. clearly resembles the object we recognise as a ticket – despite its change in scale. the designers borrow ‘The New’ from the well-known ‘Times’ logo. The numerous voices are gathered together in one speech bubble to act as a metaphor for a crowd. Creator: Post Typography Title: Greenbuild – US Green Building Council Exemplifies: Metaphor Below – Greenbuild is the largest US annual conference and expo devoted to environmentally responsible building. HOW MEANING IS FORMED Portfolio Creator: Post Typography Title: ‘The New York Times’ – The New Season Exemplifies: Icon Left – On the full-page cover of the Arts & Leisure section on the new season in the arts. the advertisement shows the voices of the conference attendees gathering together to create a larger and stronger idea in the form of a single voice. 48 .

49 . The human face is a well-understood sign for individual identity. empty space is used as a metaphor for pointless anonymity.Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES pages 183–84 Creator: Post Typography Title: Racism Erases Face Exemplifies: Metaphor In this public service poster for race relations. the designers have transferred this act to the people pictured and it becomes a metaphor for erasing their individuality. By simply erasing the faces.



In the USA. READING THE SIGN The reader The meaning of any sign is affected by who is reading that sign.3. but it has a right to existence. the meaning of words can change depending on who reads them. it is clear that Saussure wasn’t concerned with the relationship between the signified and the reality to which it refers. what laws govern them. Since the science does not yet exist. 1. no one can say what it would be. Although we can see many similarities between Peirce’s interpretant and Saussure’s signified. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) 52 . I shall call it semiology (from the Greek ‘semeion’ sign). de Saussure F. and the latter will circumscribe a well-defined area within the mass of anthropological facts. His theories concentrated instead on the complex structures of language that we use to construct words and sentences: ‘A science that studies the life of signs within society is conceivable. a place staked out in advance. The reality that Peirce calls the object does not feature at all in Saussure’s model. Semiology would show what constitutes signs. Peirce recognised a creative process of exchange between the sign and the reader. it would be a part of social psychology and consequently of general psychology. Saussure was concerned only with language and he does not discuss the part played by the reader. Linguistics is only a part of the general science of semiology. the laws discovered by semiology will be applicable to linguistics. Peirce had created a theory that saw the reading of signs as part of a creative process.’ 1 However.

53 .

Like Saussure and Peirce before him. For Barthes the science of signs takes in much more than the construction of words and their representations. In the 1960s. a follower of Saussure. In the 1960s. His ideas centre on two different levels of signification: denotation and connotation. Barthes turned this idea upside down and suggested that semiotics. the science of signs. Images. Barthes turned this idea upside down and suggested that semiotics. Elements of Semiology (1967) 54 . 2 Barthes pointed out that there was a significant role to be played by the reader in the process of reading meaning. ritual and social conventions. READING THE SIGN The reader Whereas Saussure saw linguistics as forming one part of semiotics. whatever the content or limits of the system. gestures and objects are all part of systems that have semiotic meanings. the science of signs. Whereas Saussure saw linguistics as forming one part of semiotics. it was Roland Barthes. sounds. Semiotics takes in any system of signs. Barthes developed Saussure’s ideas so that we could consider the part played by the reader in the exchange between themselves and the content. Barthes identified structural relationships in the components of a sign. was in fact one part of linguistics. 2. who took the theoretical debate forward. Barthes R. was in fact one part of linguistics.3. These may not normally be described as language systems but they are certainly systems of signification. To do this he applied linguistic concepts to other visual media that carry meaning. Barthes In Europe. Barthes described complex associations of signs that form entertainment. He saw semiotics as: ‘… the part covering the great signifying unities of discourse’.

this humanises the entire process. for example. 55 . then it follows that the connotative effect of the conventions. Above – A black-andwhite photograph can be read as nostalgic. in this first order of signification. This idea is encouraged by the mysterious crop of the man in the background. The consistent use of soft focus. the coarse dot reproduction suggests low-quality printing and can in turn suggest either newspaper journalism or political campaigns. a photograph of a child represents a child. Like Peirce’s model. they still just represent ‘child’. Even with a range of very different photographs the meanings are identical at the denotative level. which Barthes called connotation. A negative could be a reference to the process of photography or to forensics and crime. the meaning is affected by the background of the viewer. will also vary between communities.Denotation and connotation This first order of signification is straightforward. the rules on how to read these images. we know that the use of different film. The reader is playing a part in this process by applying their knowledge of the systematic coding of the image. In reality. In doing this. No matter who photographs the child and how they are photographed. A close-up draws our attention to the emotional aspect of the subject. lighting or framing changes the way in which we read the image of the child. A grainy black-and-white or sepia-toned image of a child could well bring with it ideas of nostalgia. It refers to the physical reality of the object that is signified. As conventions vary from one culture to another. All these differences are happening on the second level of signification. a soft focus might add sentiment to the reading of the image and a close-up crop of the face could encourage us to concentrate on the emotions experienced by the child. Connotation is arbitrary in that the meanings brought to the image are based on rules or conventions that the reader has learnt. In other words. in film and advertising has found its way into our consciousness to the degree that it is universally read as sentimental.

the arbitrary element is confined to the framing. the less a sign is motivated the more important it is that the reader has learnt the conventions that help to decode the image. a photograph of a child is highly motivated. In the photographic example. Convention is an agreement about how we should respond to a sign. READING THE SIGN Convention and motivation Airside Screen Icons Opposite and overleaf – A series of contemporary bitmap cartoons. it is iconic. It looks like the thing or the person it represents. by design group Airside. demonstrate how an author can take liberties within representation. The audience. We understand that we are supposed to use this as a signal to study the skill of the action or admire its beauty. We have already mentioned conventions such as the close-up and the black-and-white image. Another way of describing this is to say that a sign with little convention needs to be highly motivated. Using the earlier example. or a symbolic sign (Peirce). could be described as unmotivated. We instinctively know that slow-motion footage does not mean that the action is happening slowly. whilst a cartoon image of a child is less motivated. However. For example. It suggests the informal. a photograph is a highly motivated sign because it describes in detail the subject in the image. focus and so on. whereas with a cartoon the illustrator has more freedom to take liberties with the reality of how the child actually looks. however. an arbitrary sign (Saussure). Motivation is used to denote how much the signifier describes the signified. 56 . has no problem decoding these because the images draw from a well-understood cartoon convention. We can almost hear the sound that the stamp would make when the above image was made. Here the illustrators distort the relative sizes and shapes of physical anatomy in highly unmotivated signs. The roughly rendered typography of the rubber stamp indicates a gestural immediacy. So much of meaning comes from convention that signs with little convention need to be very iconic in order to communicate to a wide audience.3. Using the complementary terms. Using the term provided by Saussure and Peirce. A highly motivated sign is a very iconic one. Conventions such as these pepper the images we read today.

boy boy in a bear suit boy with big hair monkey .

girl girl with flower in hair princess panda .

Barthes provides examples by introducing the idea of systems of language and speech3. which relate exactly to these types of everyday expression. This correlates closely with Willis’ ideas of symbolic creativity4. which he called ‘langue’ and ‘parole’. Barthes describes language as the parts of a garment and the rules of language govern the association of the parts.Language and speech We could think of the differences between the first and second order of signification as the differences between what we say and the way we say it. as we have seen. Speech in the garment system would then be the individual way of wearing. ‘la langue’. says Barthes. is an individual act of selection and actualisation. Saussure’s primary concern was the system: the language. size. (Saussure distinguished between the two. according to Barthes. By way of distinguishing language from speech. Willis P. is language minus speech. In what he calls the garment system.) Language. yet at the same time it is a social institution and a system of values. Common Culture (1990) 59 . With the car system. the variations in the way we drive would then make up the plane of speech. the personal quirks. although they are using the same language (the hairstyle 3. However. Barthes R. Elements of Semiology (1967) 4. Speech. So we can then say that when people adopt different hairstyles. for example. the free association of the pieces and so on. the degree of cleanliness.

3. These meanings are seen as part of the natural order of things. Barthes R. Myth Barthes saw a new approach to semiotics that would force us to look more closely at what we take for granted in our visual culture. Mia. they are using different dialects5. system perhaps). Helena. and the process that transformed the meaning of the signs. are either forgotten or hidden. Julia. The idea of using a tone of voice is useful to those who use typography as a communication tool. the signs of success and failure. they are using different forms of speech. the Frenchness of wine. Where these meanings came from. In his essays on myths in contemporary culture6. Nicole. Elizabeth. Katie. Buffy. Uma. Yoko. For him. Mythologies (1972) 60 . Barthes was angered by the way contemporary society confused history with nature. Using the example of the rubber stamp. Bourdieu P. READING THE SIGN Convention and motivation Seel Garside Ladies Night Angelina. Fiona. The process of generating myths filters the political content out of signification. In today’s society. The purity of washing powder. Theresa. Rachel. Sandra. Queenie. Xena. myths were the result of meaning generated by the groups in society who have control of the language and the media. Zoe. the words are the language and the qualities of the stamp are the speech. Laura. speaking differently or. Gwyneth. Barthes draws attention to a range of misconceptions in French society about the properties and meanings we attach to images of the things around us. Demi. to use the terminology of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. the sport of wrestling. Patricia. what signifies good health and what does not. Language and Symbolic Power (1991) 6. Olivia. Catherine. Winona. 5. Victoria. modern myths are built around things like notions of masculinity and femininity. Isabella.

In today’s society. the signs of success and failure. 61 . what signifies good health and what does not. modern myths are built around things like notions of masculinity and femininity.

3. READING THE SIGN Portfolio 62 .

however. The result is a powerful combination of the technical language of mathematical division spoken by the bloodstain of the war. 63 . However. the linguistic conventions (the language) of business cards are closely followed.Creator: Dorothy (Phil Skegg) Title: War School Exemplifies: Language and speech Opposite – The War School film poster was one of a set of five.Shift. 'War School'.Alt. Creator: G-Man Title: Beauty and the Beast Exemplifies: Language and speech Right – In this set of stationery items. The central motif is a well-known mathematical symbol simply constructed of two dots and a line (the language). without the business cards losing their functionality. Just as with changing one’s tone of voice. designed to promote the winners of a national short-film competition launched by Ctrl. genuine quality. the tone and feel of these cards are changed by the careful use of materials – showing how tools and processes are signifiers too. Turning one of the elements into a bleeding wound shows just how much the meaning is affected. What gives the poster its potency. The use of heavy matt card and metallic foil blocking results in a robust. by Ben Newman. what changes these from being merely conventional is the way that the designer delivers the language (the speech). Each film raised awareness of a pressing global issue. is the speech employed by the designer. recreated a military training camp for child soldiers in a British school to bring the real horrors of war closer to home.

READING THE SIGN Portfolio 64 .3.

Tape in itself is not considered a symbol for space. Tate Gallery Exemplifies: Connotation/Index/Metonym The tape chosen as an identity for this gallery is used as an index sign in a direct relationship with a series of exterior spaces. Presented in a paradigm of exterior spaces. it is likely to be challenging and unpredictable.Creator: Burn Title: Fifth Floor Space. The tape features a repeated typographic statement and is presented in exterior environments. but used alongside a physical location the link can be made as the two elements work together. the individual locations become a metonym for space and the viewer is clear that they should read the spaces as generic ‘space’ as opposed to specific ones. which suggests familiar yet uncomfortable situations – a traffic accident or a dangerous area. These constructions imply that the art on view on the fifth floor is unlikely to be decorative or highly conventional. 65 .

it is Helpful to Try it Out for Myself First Exemplifies: Language and speech Above and opposite – Stefan Sagmeister asked Marian Bantjes to contribute to his series ‘Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far’. Marian used sugar to form the phrase ‘If I want to explore a new direction professionally. or speech. is given a very distinct and unexpected tone of voice. The piece uses sugar to render the arrangement of words (the language) in an unconventional form. 66 . it is helpful to try it out for myself first’.3. Creator: Marian Bantjes Title: The Audacity of Hov Exemplifies: Language and speech Left – ‘The Audacity of Hov’ appeared in the fifthteenth anniversary issue of ‘VIBE’ magazine for an article on JayZ. by rendering the calligraphy in sparkling gold glitter. This unconventional ‘speech’ also conveys a sense of serenity and elegance from the use of two different white textures between the foreground and the background. The traditional arrangement of letterforms. which make up the phrase. READING THE SIGN Portfolio Creator: Marian Bantjes Title: If I Want to Explore a New Direction Professionally.




In ‘Image.4. Text (1977) 70 . Image. Music. which is to say that they are composed of a fixed number of digits or units. codes must be digital. TEXT AND IMAGE Digital and analogue codes For linguists. Music. Barthes R. Text’1. 1. Roland Barthes asks whether it is possible to have codes which are analogical.

the two basic characteristics of a paradigm are that the units in the set have something in common but each unit is obviously different from the others in the set. Musical notation. for example. Music or dance. they operate on something more like a continuous scale. could be described as analogue codes.) The alphabet is arguably the most common example of a digital code. for example. reduces the analogue qualities of sound to distinct notes with individual marks. However. many analogue codes are reduced to digital codes as a means of reproducing them in another form. 71 . Analogue codes are paradigms where the distinctions between each unit are not clear. (As we saw in chapter two. The geometric shapes form a digital code. Jas Bhachu Rubik’s Cube Font Generator Each individual part of the drawings we recognise as letterforms is separated out in an ingenious ‘Rubik’s Cube’ of geometry that can be combined to make any letter of the Roman alphabet.Digital codes are paradigms where each of the units in the set are clearly different from each other.

In advertising. get to the point as quickly as possible.4. It is the purpose of the advertisement to communicate the positive qualities of the product as clearly as possible to the chosen audience. the reader can be sure that signification is always intentional. hence the success of the most hard-worked word in advertising. The advertisement should be concise. The advertisement should be precise. The advertisement should be of interest and value to the reader. The writer should ask himself. 2 2. FREE! 3. This is demonstrated by Frank Jefkins’ three basic principles of effective advertisement writing: 1. Jefkins F. TEXT AND IMAGE Advertising writing To examine the relationship between text and image. saying what it has to say in the fewest necessary words. remembering that an encyclopaedia of many volumes can be concise compared with a verbose novel. Nothing is left to chance. Barthes chooses to focus on compositions from advertising. Advertisement Writing (1976) 72 . ‘How can I interest my prospects in my proposition? How can my offer be of service to prospects?’ 2. that is.

The advertising parody is reinforced by the addition of the stylised ‘HEL’. The reader is playing a part in the reading by applying their knowledge of the systematic coding of the image. An image of a bowl of fruit. The linguistic message can also carry a second-order signifier by implication. The second message is the coded iconic message. for example. Our attitude to the humble cracker is fixed by the addition of a copy line in a parody of advertising (see p. freshness or market stalls. usually in the form of a slogan or a caption to the image. For example. This is the text itself. Paul Davis Wasteland Opposite – The text answers the question ‘What is it?’. Alan Murphy Feline Hell Right – The innocuous drawing of the cat and the flames are changed by the addition of the text calling for an end to the breed. Without the text the cat could almost be keeping itself warm. The first message is described as the linguistic message. Notions of high design standards and precision engineering are read at the same time as the name. an advertisement featuring the word ‘Volkswagen’ tells us the name of the manufacturer but also signifies certain national characteristics.The three messages Barthes sets out a system for reading text/image combinations. This is a symbolic message and works on the level of connotation. Reading the linguistic message requires a previous knowledge of the particular language employed. 73 . might imply still life. which comprises three separate messages. 74). which has the character of a brand name.

is much less common. subtitles. the medium cannot be separated from the message. says Barthes. but merely the presence of the linguistic message itself. a single global signified. Relay text advances the reading of the images by supplying meanings that are not to be found in the images themselves. could be described as a message without a code. Indeed. Barthes describes the way in which the reader is remote-controlled to a meaning that has been chosen in advance. through what he calls a floating chain of signifiers. directs the beholder through a number of possible readings of an image. which causes the reader to ignore some of the signifiers and read others. He points out that this often has an ideological purpose. relay. Text on a connoted image (the coded iconic message) helps the reader to interpret the signifiers they are presented with. film dialogue and comic strips. It can be found in comic strips. for instance. TEXT AND IMAGE Advertising writing The third message is described as the non-coded iconic message. constitutes what he calls a parasitic message. Anchorage and relay Anchorage. The addition of text can be a powerful method of altering or fixing the meaning of an image. McLuhan M. for instance.4. it is possible that a long text may only comprise one message. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) 74 . However. Text on a denoted image (the non-coded iconic message) aids recognition. When coupled with an image. and is particularly important in film. This is something that is present in a great number of the images we read: in captions. The second possible function. 3. Text on an image. a phenomenon Marshall McLuhan pointed to in his book ‘The Medium is the Message’3. The text answers the question ‘What is it?’. text has two possible functions: anchorage and relay. Although the linguistic message can be easily separated from the other two messages. it seems that neither the length of the linguistic message (the text) nor its position are particularly important. In other words. Barthes maintains that the other two cannot be separated because the viewer reads them at the same time. as in film dialogue. according to Barthes. one simply reads the medium as itself: it is a photograph. designed to quicken the reading with additional signifieds. A photograph. Anchorage text can then have a repressive value when applied to an image. and Fiore Q. The text is usually a snippet of dialogue and works in a complementary way to the image. This works on the level of denotation.

75 .

although a reader with a highly defined cultural awareness might not need this additional sign. This is done by deliberately excluding other signs that exist in the painting but fall beyond the boundary of the book jacket. the cracked canvas. the value of the sign is controlled by removing other signs. 76 . TEXT AND IMAGE Portfolio Creator: Michael Walsh – New York School of Visual Arts Title: Leonardo da Vinci Exemplifies: Anchorage/Value A close-up of the smile in da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ is enlarged to fill the entire cover of this book jacket. This draws the reader’s attention to the surface detail of the painting: the brush marks. In this instance. the quality of the light and the colour palette.4. The addition of the text anchors the reader’s uncertainty about the artist.

77 . adding a second sign.Creator: Lawrence Zeegen Title: Liar Exemplifies: Anchorage/Value The authority of the managerial figure is undermined by the word ‘liar’. Barthes’ floating chain of signifiers is removed and the reader is remote-controlled to a more fixed reading of the composition. As Saussure points out. the value of a sign is dependent on the other signs around it. A similar relationship develops when text is added to the image. In this instance. any ambiguity on the reader’s part is fixed or anchored by the addition of the text. The silhouetted figure with his flip chart becomes a sinister character with an unpleasant ulterior motive.

TEXT AND IMAGE Portfolio 78 .4.

for example. which could carry a variety of different meanings.’ The second frame. we then read the silence in the final frame as a text. the text anchors the image by answering the question. The three shapes simply float in space as time passes. ‘What is it?’ The shapes speak directly to the viewer and explain. but it is the text that helps the reader make sense of why they are there and what they mean in this context. uncaring universe. The absence of dialogue is as potent as the dialogue in the previous two frames. the text in the first two frames functions as anchorage text. we are alone in a cold. shows a different relationship between the text and the image. It is typical of relay text that it should be a piece of dialogue: ‘We can never truly know anyone. the icons on the map still have a degree of ambiguity to their meaning. ‘I’m a sphere’ and ‘I’m a cube. the text ‘Bees in the Room’ answers the ‘What is it?’ question posed by the coded image because here the reader cannot be certain what the tiny dots signify. 79 . Here the text functions as relay text because it supplies the meaning. The third image simply shows an empty background and the text explains the reason for this emptiness. In the first frame ‘Pram in the Hall’. Creator: Tom Gauld Title: 3-D Friends Exemplifies: Relay text Opposite top – In both of these examples. the text reaffirms what the non-coded image shows. the absence of text in the final frame also functions as relay text. the reader can identify the various objects pictured in the space around the central character.’ Arguably. however. In the second frame. The final two frames. Having established dialogue in the other two. is confirmed by the addition of the text. which is fixed by the addition of relay text.Creator: Tom Gauld Title: Map of the Area Surrounding our Holiday Home Exemplifies: Relay Text Right – In this example. In the first frame. In ‘3-D Friends’ there is very little signification to be found from the three frames of the comic strip. A running figure. the illustrator uses anchorage and relay text. ‘Nothing in the Bank’ and ‘Poltergeist in the House’. In the final frame. Creator: Tom Gauld Title: Four Obstacles to Writing Exemplifies: Relay text Opposite bottom – In ‘Four Obstacles to Writing’. fix the ambiguity of the meaning in the images. What could be an athlete or a jogger or someone who is late for a meeting is explained by the text as ‘escaped convict’.

the text. for example. explains some of the missing signs in the drawing.4. The image of the shoes shows a coded message where specific physical characteristics of the shoes are suggested rather than described. In the top frame. To the question in our minds regarding what the building is. Pictured here are two of the 59 drawings of the day. The drawing itself gives a limited amount of information about the shoes – their colour. Creator: William John Hewitt Title: 7th July London Bombings Exemplifies: Anchorage Opposite – Part of a series of documentary drawings about the London Bombings. They are visual notes and impressions of the event and as such there is very little real information that can be gleaned from the drawings. However. which effectively anchors the drawing. ‘These are my magical new green pixie shoes’. ‘Two motorcyclists – police or paramedics come round the van’. The nature of black line drawings cannot convey the man ‘with grey hair’. their precise shape and their colour are all lost to the reader until the text. the author answers ‘Embankment station’. 80 . explains exactly what we are looking at and anchors the image. TEXT AND IMAGE Portfolio Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES page 184 Creator: Francesca Williams aka Bunny Bissoux Title: Pixie Shoes Exemplifies: Anchorage Above – A simple self-initiated sketch as part of a series in a small book of recent shopping purchases. the text anchors part of the image and provides relay meaning. so it is stated in the text. The material the shoes are made from. In the bottom frame. the ambiguities and the gaps are taken care of by the addition of text.




F. this field is constantly changing. Knowledge and Control (1971) 84 . Intellectual Field and Creative Project (1966) in Young M. the more difficult the entry the more defined the field. in general. Bourdieu P. 1. as is its membership and its discourse. Those in the field could be said to be sharing or struggling with a common pursuit and share in its own particular discourse. The field of law might be considered a clearly defined field.D. The visual arts would be described as an activity that takes place within the field of cultural production.5. Like all other fields. Some fields are clearly defined by making entry into that field difficult to attain and. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Habitus Pierre Bourdieu classified human endeavour and knowledge in terms of fields.

It is generally agreed that individuals carry with them some idea. for example. This influences choices whilst also reinforcing the validity of the field. These possibilities are limited by a number of factors. such as education. Apparently insignificant aspects of everyday life. It is this sense of vocation that became described as habitus. in the case of the field of cultural production. the field pre-exists the artist. and the constructed images we witness every day. 85 . perhaps subconsciously. of which position to take up on their arrival within the field. You could call this a sense of vocation. for example. all contribute to the formation of habitus. gender and age. Bourdieu states that the choice between the territories where we will take up position as individuals (the choice of habitus within the language) is accomplished without consciousness in every situation1. social background. such as ways of doing things or body language. which offer a range of possibilities. such as graphic designer. Within the field there are a number of official positions.The notion of creative and intellectual fields was extended to establish the idea that each field pre-exists its membership.

Galindo R. a dialect for example. A California English Only initiative (proposition 63) was followed by a provision for citizens and anyone doing business in the 86 . Language Wars: The Ideological Dimensions of the Debates on Bilingual Education (1997) Bourdieu begins his assertions about legitimate language with Saussure’s observation that neither languages nor dialects have natural limits2. it is internally driven by its own independent logic. ibid. Language and Symbolic Power (1991) 3. it is necessary to have a general codification that is sustained by creating institutional conditions that enable it to be recognised throughout the whole jurisdiction of a certain political authority. dismissing them as ‘slang’ and ‘gibberish’ (as can be seen from teachers’ marginal comments on essays) and to impose recognition of the legitimate language. An unofficial language. however. has not undergone this institutional process of control. which is used in selection at interview. Bloomfield L. the territory could be described as the field of cultural production and would include various positions within it. In the context of this book. In order to successfully impose this language as the official language. In an essay entitled ‘Language Wars’5. has been judged and sanctioned by an institution: ‘The educational system. but in most cases the interview is only possible once the award has been attained. If we look at the vocational art and design disciplines of graphic or fashion design. These qualifications identify the legitimate language within a territory and enable individuals to take up positions within a field. All that is necessary is a set of speaking subjects who are willing to make themselves the bearers of the language or dialect using an intrinsic and autonomous logic. This will be discussed later on in this chapter. and that externally there is a political process that unifies the speaking subjects and leads them to accept. goes on to point out that external as well as internal factors affect the limits of a language. This is particularly true of situations that characterise themselves as official. such as a degree or a diploma. René Galindo points out a number of propositions passed in the late 1990s. The official language imposes itself as the only legitimate language within a territorial limit. such as a graphic designer or artist. 5. the use of the official language. Bourdieu P. both written and visual. whose scale of operations grew in extent and intensity throughout the nineteenth century. Grammarians and teachers working from institutions become jurists who examine the usage of language to the point of the legal sanction of academic qualifications. in most cases entry into the field is acquired through the successful completion of an academic qualification. It follows that this official language has territorial limits.5. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE The production of legitimate language 2. The process of completing the course generates a portfolio. no doubt directly helped to devalue popular modes of expression. Bloomfield describes this as a ‘linguistic community – a group of people who use the same system of linguistic signs. We will look at this in more detail in chapter six. in practice. The use of language. Language (1958) 4.’ 3 Bourdieu. Bourdieu P.’ 4 Recent shifts in bilingual education in the USA illustrate this well.

the page itself is a sign .

To do this. To celebrate this they decided to build a tower that reached towards the heavens.The book of Genesis tells the story of the Tower of Babel. the most effective method was to fragment their language so that hierarchies would develop. At that time all the citizens spoke the same language and everyone could understand each other. linguists do not take the story to be an accurate historical text but it serves as a useful metaphor of how language can be used as an instrument of control. God in his wisdom decided that this must be stopped. . Of course.

Bourdieu P. Indeed.. Without support from external agencies. The theory follows that these differences can be developed into a system for determining hierarchical position. called English for the Children. any value or capital (cultural or monetary) awarded to individuals always arises from a deviation from the most common usage. Slang phrases often appear in italics. have to be practically measured against the legitimate language. the different dialects. Language Wars: The Ideological Dimensions of the Debates on Bilingual Education (1997) 7. as popular or common uses. such as qualifications. or a particular use of language. we can see the way in which the discourse surrounding it has developed to authorise the work and enable its acceptance as part of the official visual culture. was passed in 1998 and decreed that all children should be taught English and anyone who wants their children to be taught a second language would have to make a special written request. Commonplace usage is seen as trivial or vulgar. the institutions responsible for the maintenance of the official language and on local authority (state) property... at the appearance of the visual language of the pop artists in the 1960s. public administrations. If we look. Galindo summarises the debate: ‘.. to impose itself as legitimate. then it could be said that the production of a legitimate language is bound up with the field of economic production. a typographic signal of difference or separation. regional or ethnic group. ‘Obligatory on official occasions and in official places (schools.language state to sue local governments for actions that diminish or ignore the role of English as the common language of California. Language and Symbolic Power (1991) 89 . ’ 6 This competition for value can also be seen in the way slang is included in dictionaries as recognised omissions from legitimate language. whether class. for example.’ 7 It is worth noting that the highest proportion of graffiti attacks (an extreme form of unofficial visual language) take place in schools. Capital. and the criticism that now accompanies this work.). these dialects or unofficial languages (which are internally driven) cannot be imposed as the norm for another territory. Bourdieu points out that for a particular language. As the educational system is funded by and answerable to the state. Galindo R. despite the possibility of using these differences as a pretext for declaring one superior to another. political institutions etc. Proposition 227. competition for value between different constituencies that takes place through the manipulation of symbolic assets such as language(s). 6. is awarded to well-chosen words/signs/images that are seen as dignified or lofty. this state language becomes the theoretical norm against which all linguistic practices are objectively measured.

The smaller motifs incorporated in the lower half of the painting. he was castigated by his tutors. ‘There was a widely held view in some circles in the 1950s that serious painting had to be abstract. . This can be monetary or cultural capital. The basing of images on existing popular sources. Capital In its open celebration of popular culture. Their disapproval was so strong that Phillips was forced to transfer from the Painting School to the less noble. in which predella panels establish a narrative compliment to the starkly formal central image.’ 9 This method of referencing the past is commonplace in artistic criticism and appears to lend authority to the work by aligning its formal features with those that are already accepted as part of the official discourse. When he first produced what has become known as some of the finest examples of British pop art. marked by its Royal Charter. Allen Jones fared less well and was expelled from his college.. establish an alternative timescale as in early Italian altar pieces. The reverse is also true for the use of an unofficial language. such as graffiti or vandalism... were anticipated in a variety of developments in European and American Modernism. where a spell in detention could be the reward. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE The production of legitimate language Society awards capital to individuals for their use of language. In the case of good use of the official language. but popular. the most prestigious art school in the UK. an educational award such as an honours degree or a PhD could be the cultural capital leading to monetary rewards..’ 10 90 . that it was retrograde for artists to make reference to the outside world by engaging in representation or illusion. had precedents in the work of nineteenth-century painters such as Gustav Courbet and Edouard Manet. ‘Some of the recurring characteristics of pop. in which he synthesised his practical skills and his intuitive response to Italian pre-Renaissance painting with an open expression of his enjoyment of funfairs and the game of pinball. The celebrated David Hockney was threatened with expulsion at around the same time for his refusal to complete (official) written work. for example. Compare this attitude towards the work with these excerpts from a recent critique on the same work: ‘Phillips painted a large canvas. Television School for his final year.’ 8 The British artist Peter Phillips was studying at the Royal College of Art in London. pop art caused a great deal of consternation amongst those at the centre of the field of cultural production... Purple Flag.5.

A. The important thing to recognise in the context of this chapter is that there are rules that have become accepted as legitimate practice and are used in education and elsewhere as the norm against which deviation is measured.Rules Visual arts publications. Horn F. which deal with the craft of making visual work. Livingstone M. Hutchings R. 11. conversely.. many of these accepted conventions are grounded in experience and are valid observations. no amount of fashionable success can change this assessment for better or worse. ibid. Pop Art (1990) 9.. 13. for example.. Lettering at Work (1955) 12. Horn F. the letter O could be the visual equivalent of the sun.S..’ 14 Any value or capital (cultural or monetary) awarded to individuals always arises from a deviation from the most common usage.A. the efficiently designed trademark must be a thing of the barest essentials. A Designer’s Art (1985) 91 . Of course. typefaces can unquestionably be assessed on the basis of artistic quality irrespective of their fashion status.’ 11 ‘. 8. Rand P. and.. ibid. useless elaboration that has been traditionally a feature of bad trademark design.’ 12 ‘. Commonplace usage is seen as trivial or vulgar. ibid. Here are some examples from graphic design texts: ‘. The Western Heritage of Type Design (1963) 14.. Livingstone M. Livingstone M. a wheel.’ 13 ‘Visual analogies which most clearly illustrate meaning or the spirit of a word should be sought. invariably carry sets of rules on how to successfully employ the official visual language within their various disciplines. an eye. 10.

Intellectual Field and Creative Project (1966) in Young M.5. This is certainly true of the experiences of designers within the field of cultural production. Bourdieu P. where there is reluctance to acknowledge that art is a commercial activity. which are inevitably accompanied by formal award ceremonies as a result of artists addressing an ideal reader. This declared refusal to meet popular demand could encourage art for art’s sake and increase the intensity of emotions between members of an artistic community. Mutual admiration societies appear. where work that can be identified as commercial is subject to varying degrees of derision. This is perhaps even more intense in the fine arts. one in which competitors cannot be identified with the competition for commercial success16. The History of Sexuality (1978) 16. Knowledge and Control (1971) It was generally agreed that the social uses of language owe their social value to their being organised into systems of differences. In a sense then.D. To speak is to adopt a style that already exists and is marked by its position in a hierarchy of styles. these different styles/dialects are both classified and classifying by marking those who use them. Foucault points out that the biological distinction of gender has been overlaid with a systematic set of discourses that have become an organising principle in recruiting labour and consuming and producing goods – all of which lead to gender-dominated practices15. Foucault M.F. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE The competition for cultural legitimacy 15. which corresponds to a hierarchy of social groups. 92 . ‘Knowledge and Control’ shows Bourdieu outline a competition where the public is seen as both the prize and the arbitrator.

The example of the reception given to Peter Phillips’ work is part of an endless process of assimilation. This judgement is a representation of their place within the particular specialised field. A field must be in constant flux to be able to survive. Although it could be argued that photography has become more acceptable to those at the centre of the field of cultural production (since 1991. He provides us with examples of activities that fall between noble. there is however a practical commitment to the economic field (advertising. painter/curator) leads us to question the traditional perception of authorship. with each agent or partner employing the socially established idea of the other partner. The position of photography would then determine the relationship between the photographer and the painter. constructed realities. So although one cannot be seen to be identified with wholly commercial issues. while others make no practical provision at all. is the need for a process of continuous creation and review through an ongoing struggle between the different authorities within a field of specialised production. cultural activities and vulgar. with some colleges providing distinct pathways for photographers and film/video makers. Bourdieu describes this as collective. when Bourdieu wrote ‘Language and Symbolic Power’). This can be seen through the varying degree to which it is resourced in art colleges throughout the UK. which is necessary for the field to maintain its authority. The history of the field of cultural production is littered with similar examples. commonplace activities in the forms of photography and cinema. The divided opinion and controversy between the cultivated classes is used to place photography halfway between the poles of high and low culture. The relationships between different agents within a specialised field (publisher/author. the bricks were exhibited alongside paintings by John Constable in the gallery in London. 93 .Flux and hierarchy Another condition that Bourdieu offers as essential to maintaining the permanence of an official language. Carl Andre’s pile of bricks was finally accepted when the Tate Gallery bought the second version of the piece in 1972 despite the ridicule that heralded the first version in 1966. work ethic) by the constant drive to maintain the status quo at the centre of a specialised field. By 1976. there remains evidence of a reluctance to fully accept the media into the fine arts.

It merely adds more stress to the normal difficulties entailed in producing original work.’ 17 This perception is built on historical ideologies that show an outright contempt for artistic works with any functional value. Paul Willis points out that: ‘The Arts Council withdrew very promptly from the site of popular consumption. This work is based on Aesop's fable 'The Vain Jackdaw' and is 2x0. dominate or contain everyday life because there is already something there which grows from its own resources – a meaning-making and ordinary cultural production now full of implications for the rest of society. The paucity of great art is no more prevalent among designers than it is among painters. Willis also points out that this high culture cannot ignore low culture. Jackdaw is an example of how a designer/illustrator develops their own visual language through exploring issues such as new media. subject matter or scale.’ 20 Lucy McLauchlan Jackdaw It is generally accepted that a designer works in a ‘commercial’ area and artists make work that is ‘issue based’.5.’ 19 However. black marker pens on plywood. But that difference is one of need and does not preclude consideration of form or quality. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE The competition for cultural legitimacy The acclaimed designer Paul Rand points out that there remains a discernable hierarchy within the practices that make up the visual arts: ‘That graphic design is generally considered a minor art has more to do with posturing than it does with reality. To be sure there is a basic difference between graphic design and painting.8m in size. 94 . ‘Nothing is truly beautiful except that which can serve for nothing. ‘ “Elite and official” culture can no longer hope to colonise.’ 18 Although institutions such as the Arts Council in the UK were set up with the aim of making the arts more accessible to all classes.

The lecture theatre provides an excellent example of Burke’s observations on drama. The words themselves have no power unless the user is ‘authorised’ to use them. A Designer’s Art (1985) 19. The lecture is granted as legitimate. One notion that is particularly good at highlighting this is what Bourdieu calls ‘the magical act’. for example. the books are all instruments of an official discourse deemed worthy of publication. where the semiotics of the official and the corporate have been skilfully employed to communicate the ideas and feelings of the individual. Willis P. Rand P. 21. This phenomenon can certainly be observed within the institutions. This is described as the attempt. How to Do Things with Words (1955) Authorised language It is obvious that social conditions and social ritual have a bearing on the use of language. A Designer’s Art (1985) 18. The visual arts is full of examples of the magical act. Gautier T. to act through words beyond the limits of delegated authority. defend and sanction legitimate language. 95 . Austin J. the lectern.L. but by being delivered by an authorised and licensed (qualified) person in a legitimate situation. whose role it is to impose.’ 21 Being able to recognise and employ Legitimate Language does not necessarily empower the speaker or artist without another set of conditions.17. It is a principle of drama that the nature of acts must be consistent with the nature of the surroundings. Common Culture (1990) 20. ibid. I see a vessel on the stocks. ‘Suppose. Willis P. walk up and smash the bottle hung at the stem. proclaim “I name this ship the Mr Stalin” and for good measure kick away the chocks: but the trouble is. not by being understood. in Rand P. within the sphere of social action. mentioned earlier. I was not the person chosen to name it. The theatre.

Right – Sample spreads from the book featuring the maxim: ‘Trying to Look Good Limits My Life’. high-art items more readily associated with official visual culture. on the cover of an annual report. The designer anticipates that the audience will read the page as a sign and the billboard as a sign. Sagmeister projects a series of unofficial informal texts on to an official cultural space. magazine spreads. The work produced from the maxim appears in wildly varying forms and has been published all over the world in spaces normally reserved for advertising or promotions. 96 . on billboards. leads to Sagmeister's work being described as sitting between graphic design and art.5. Sagmeister draws on the discourse of high art by creating 15 limited-edition book covers. This reading of official context at the same time as the unofficial text lends authority to the message and results in what is effectively a magical act. This deliberately playful approach to context and his ability to manipulate the commercial world to his own ends. The reader’s perception is shifted away from mass-produced items towards collectible. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio Creator: Stefan Sagmeister Title: Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far Exemplifies: Official language Left – Four of 15 covers of the book ‘Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far’ by Stefan Sagmeister. which accompanied an exhibition of the same name in Deitch Projects' Grand Street gallery in New York.

97 .

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio 98 .5.

This one-minute clip about the importance of keeping a diary was shot in one day in an abandoned park. the strong symmetrical composition. These stills show how a personal piece of information. a level of expense and a sense of broadcasting and publishing that does not apply to unsanctioned communication. can be transformed into something that appears to have an authoritative voice. The audience will read the high production values in the photography. 99 .Creator: Stefan Sagmeister Title: Keeping a Diary Supports Personal Development Exemplifies: Official language The Sagmeister studio was invited to Singapore to produce another instalment of the series ‘Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far’. All of these suggest a high level of production. the epic scale of the settings and the text itself to form a picture of a highly sanctioned piece of work. The work could sit in a visual paradigm alongside epic movies. which exists as an unofficial and unsanctioned statement. historic drama or location-based documentary.

the way they are organised into systems (the relationship between the crown and the number).5. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio Creator: Pete Richardson Title: Crowns (Opposite) Exemplifies: Official language In the UK. the combination of crown mark and numeric value is an official sign that has a significance to a distinct audience who have agreed on the code and have learnt the relationships involved. Each system of language has an independent system of codes that exist independently of any other language system. This enables the glass to also be the measuring device and avoids the need to measure the liquid separately and then pour it into a glass. In this case. and the context in which they appear (the glass). 100 . a linguistic community. For each system. glasses with crown marks have been checked to ensure they are of the specified capacity (pint. The number varies depending on which agency has done the checking. crown). all that is needed for it to exist is an agreement from a distinct group of people. This example also illustrates the three main areas of signs and how the meaning is affected by them: the signs themselves (numbers. half pint etc) to comply with national legislation. This set of marks is recognised as the only legitimate sign for the measure within a specified political territory.

101 .

found in various parts of the city. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES pages 184–185 Portfolio Creator: Katy Dawkins Title: Interference (Plaque) Exemplifies: Authorised language Left and above – Part of a series of graphic interventions in public spaces. The original text is taken from the unofficial communication of graffiti. its price tag was carefully removed (in keeping with the convention of removing the price) and reapplied in a random pattern on a single sheet of paper. 102 . is described as a magical act. Participants were asked to buy items (bearing removable price tags) that could be offered as gifts. At the end of the show each person who gave an item returned to the gallery to select a gift. the designer is able to transfer the message from unofficial to official language. By using characteristics and materials from an authorised visual code.5. Each participant brought his or her gift item to the gallery. Once the price-tag sheets were printed. edition of 300 Exemplifies: Authorised language Opposite – Individuals were invited to participate in a public gift exchange that would generate an American version of Eatock’s ‘Price-Tag Gift Wrap’. Creator: Daniel Eatock Title: Price-Tag Gift Wrap offset on paper. This transfer. Would participants open the gift to discover the item inside or keep the artwork intact and conceal the gift? Eatock highlights the gap in cultural hierarchy between the gallery as a high-art activity and the low art of consumption and shopping by deliberately transferring the visual language of one culture on to another. they were used to wrap all the gift items brought to the gallery and these were then displayed on shelves as a work in the exhibition. acting beyond the realm of delegated authority. it is then redrawn using a legitimate and authorised visual language before being returned to its original environment. Every gift brought to the gallery is represented on the paper by its corresponding price tag.




but solving the problem collectively offers us a new perspective on the situation. Increasingly their aspirations are focused on what they do outside of the workplace.6. studies involving the behaviour of football fans show that there are a number of subtle messages being communicated. The way the colours are worn. the gestures made by the fan and the way they dress are all part of a semiotic code. Where we try to solve this problem individually it can lead to isolation. fashion and sport. However. even as a means of earning money. are lively and colourful places. Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures (1980) 106 . The football terraces. Mike Brake points out that the differential fit problem is redefined according to the rules and conventions of the subcultural group and offers us a new identity outside of the usual categories of age. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Unofficial codes All of us face the problem of a differential fit between how we see ourselves and how others see us. Often two or more of these are fused together in a semiotic package. and turn instead to leisurebased rather than work-based activities. Their energies are directed towards activities associated with music. Young people in particular feel marginalised by official cultural values. Studies have shown that it is possible to predict which fans would stand 1. for example. They often place no importance on work. On one level this merely signifies the team they support. class or occupation1. Brake M. densely packed with fans adorned in team colours. how the scarf is tied.

107 .

The Rules of Disorder (1977) 3. all by looking at semiotic subtleties.’ 3 The demonstration of individual identity is perhaps the most popular and prevalent theme of graffiti writing. Stencil Graffiti (2002) 4. it is distinctly visual. Graffiti Let’s look. In other words the ‘gear’ that the fans wear has a highly symbolic function. The clenched fist and the frosty stare are all recognisable as metonyms for real violence and can replace real violence in ritualised aggression. ‘Writing graffiti is about the most honest way you can be an artist. Graffiti is a useful model as. is determined by the community who use it and. which fans regularly attend away matches and which fans see themselves as tough but probably aren’t. marginalised by official culture: the opportunity to communicate with like-minded people in a way that cannot be understood by those they mistrust. Castleman C. It also has a long history: symbols and pictures were found scratched alongside the names of gladiators on the walls of the excavated buildings of Pompeii. in some way. unlike the official language. It is easy to see why it is an attractive option for anyone who feels. whether spoken or visual. their gestures and their haircuts are all part of their particular dialect. What they wear. at graffiti as an unofficial visual language that also carries its own linguistic terms. it has no control imposed from the outside. By its very use. As we have previously seen. Saussure observed that neither languages nor dialects have natural limits. A whole range of semiotic symbols mark the distinct linguistic communities.’ 2 The gestures between rival football fans work as metonyms. This makes it easy to recognise and produces equally clear reactions from those who read it. 2. Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1982) 108 . It also has the benefit of being an extreme type of unofficial language. All that is needed is a set of speaking subjects who are willing to make themselves the bearers of the language or dialect. you don’t need an education to understand it and there’s no admission fee.6. The language. Rosser E. It stands well outside of any educational system. the language also marks the user as part of an alternative community. Marsh P. The symbolic gestures discussed in this chapter can be seen as dialects. Manco T. first of all. ‘Although the fans dress in a similar manner which accords with certain conventions and styles they are still able to convey a wide range of messages in their choice of clothing which fall within the wider conventions.. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Unofficial codes and fight. how they talk. for example. and Harré R. It takes no money to do it. The time-honoured practice of writing your name (or nickname) is still very much part of our environment today.

On – terms of approval. 109 . the Joint. Racking Up – shoplifting (it is considered proper that the materials used should be stolen). Bomb – a group attack.Castleman’s study of New York graffiti identifies a number of forms of contemporary graffiti4. Tag/Throw-up – the graffiti writers’ version of a signature or logo. Fame – fame. such as the tag or the throw-up. Bad. Nasty. the Death. Used by graffiti writers. King of the Line – the writer with the most number of throw-ups. this terminology extends to highlight a hierarchy and a code of practice peculiar to its own field: Backgrounding – an agreed code not to cover or deface other people’s work. meaning insignificant. Burner. Vicious. Getting Up – writing. Toy – a term that can be added to a piece as a form of criticism. Dirty. Hit – an early name for a tag. Down. Juicy.

Castleman C. Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1982) 9.’ 6 However. Dominicans and Nigerians...’ 5 The British Home Office Research Unit literature confirms this view: ‘The motivation underlying vandalism by adolescent youths may also fuel other forms of delinquent behaviour. as adults.6. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE The graffiti writer 5. from working-class and middle-class as well as upper-class families. Officers from the transport police talked about the vandals and described what kind of backgrounds they came from: ‘. their fathers were professors at Columbia. Castleman C. NYU. Filipinos. Ukrainians. Americans. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) 8. some were CPAs. Scottish Criminal Justice Act of 1980 (Section 78) The official view of the graffiti writer is that he or she is a vandal.. 110 . architects. They tended to start around ten years old and retire by their 16th birthday.. and are of different ethnic origins. There’s no generalisation. effectively criminalised.98-a-month ghettos. It seems to follow a stereotypical description of a working-class inner-city adolescent whose destructive activities are the forerunner of criminality in later years. The writers themselves confirmed this in interviews with Castleman. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) 7. Home Office Research Unit in Coffield F. which claim that the vandals have a much broader social background: ‘Vandals come from urban and suburban as well as rural areas. it is easy to see how today’s young vandal can become tomorrow’s football hooligan and next week’s mugger. Conference on Vandalism.’ 8 According to Castleman. they would be photographed and fingerprinted.. apartments. some were doctors. especially theft. ibid. London (1988) 6. ‘. Hurd D. Coffield F. West Indians. this stereotype is discredited by independent studies. They live in thousand-dollar houses. the Nation of Graffiti Artists (NOGA) has members representing numerous ethnic groups: ‘including Chinese.’ 7 This view is certainly backed up by the high proportion of involvement shown in Gladstone’s self-report study in 1978 and also confirmed by Craig Castleman’s study of New York graffiti. some are living in $1. A recognition of the growing involvement of girls in vandalism would also help to correct the stereotype. 10..’ 9 The police records also showed that the majority of writers were between 11 and 16. this being the age at which.

whereas in Scotland. however. graffiti and vandalism have been defined in terms of criminal damage yet the Scottish Criminal Justice Act of 1980 (Section 78) clearly states that: ‘Any person who. vandalism has been a criminal offence since 1980. For example. In England and Wales. there are a number of approaches that attempt to explain either part of the problem or a particular type of vandalism. without reasonable excuse. criminal statistics for England and Wales show that no one has ever been charged or found guilty of vandalism.’ 10 Despite this difference in legal terminology. Rather. wilfully or recklessly destroys or damages any property belonging to another shall be guilty of the offence of “vandalism”. These terms are rarely used. when reporting the efforts of city planners or developers who have damaged cities and landscapes more permanently. 111 . There is also no general agreement of a definition of vandalism. ‘mindless’ or ‘obscene’. news reports and press cuttings show that it is typically described as ‘senseless’.Motivation Perhaps the most striking feature of this area is that there is no general view about the causes and motivation behind graffiti and vandalism. There is no single theory that is generally accepted as having unlocked the secrets of these illicit activities. both by journalists and the police.

extending traditional concepts of vandalism to include what he called pinstripe vandalism. which is particularly interesting as a clue to possible motives: ‘. For example. Stan Cohen and Frank Coffield.. breaking away or breaking clear’ and would include attacks on local authority property. however. which provides a different perspective from the usual approach of prevention and punishment. 4. there is a tendency for official institutions and authorities to view vandalism and graffiti as a problem and to address the issues using a discourse that reflects this view. by the need for excitement or prestige amongst the graffiti artist’s own particular linguistic community... Home Office Research Unit in Coffield F. 2. and Waddon A. a comparatively small proportion of vandalism appears to be committed against people’s personal or private property. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) 13.’ 11 A study of workers on the Liverpool docks showed that a system of rules and conventions. generated by financial hardship. Conference on Vandalism. this is the category that includes the behaviour of young people who are ‘breaking out. Malicious Vandalism For Cohen. which were later adapted by Baker and Waddon13 (whose alterations I have added beneath each category): 1. looting vending machines or stealing signs. A code of practice was established where it was quite acceptable to steal something from the workplace but entirely unacceptable to steal from the family. One other point was made by the UK Home Office Research Unit. Acquisitive Vandalism To acquire money or property. Perhaps the most accepted formulation of categories are the types outlined by Cohen. Baker C. which is motivated by curiosity or competition. Vindictive Vandalism Baker and Waddon changed the title of this category to Problem Expression. Vandalism: Understanding and Prevention in Helping Troubled Pupils in Schools (1989) 14. In general. Play Vandalism Vandalism for fun or through high spirits.6. Hurd D. These are motivated.’ 12 We begin to get a broad picture of graffiti as a series of gestures directed against the visible symbols of the establishment. (1978) in Coffield F. A means of achieving some other end. such as bringing a production line to a halt in order to break the boredom of the work and to increase standing within peer groups. Prestige and excitement Home Office Research in the UK cites prestige and excitement as motives for graffiti and vandalism: ‘. at least in part. This tradition was focused on defiance towards authority. Ideological Vandalism Property that is destroyed to gain publicity for a particular cause. courage or skill. Categories There have been a number of attempts to define the motives behind vandalism.. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) 12. or by older adolescents seeking prestige and excitement. who can break the most windows. 6. Tactical Vandalism Baker and Waddon replaced this category with a new category: graffiti. led to a tradition of risk-taking as proof of strength. 3. Vandalism for some form of revenge or to settle a grudge. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE The graffiti writer This vandalism with power was highlighted by David Downes. Clarke R. 5. most vandalism is directed at local authority property. most of the vandalism seems to be committed either by young children in unsupervised play. suggest that vandalism and graffiti are solutions rather than problems.. which is justified by a political belief or a long-standing grievance. He recognises this to be the category that 11. often directed at schools.. first by categorising the variety of actions that come under this heading and then dealing with why these take place. For example. London (1988) 112 . relatively little seems to be committed by older youths or adults.

peer group pressure. however. expressive and emotional terms. the motives that generate most debate are the notions of pleasure and manufactured malice. there seems to be no general view about the causes and motives underlying vandalism. We have a picture of what society should be and we recognise certain motives as legitimate. which does not involve financial gain (this would include graffiti). Where these motives cannot be found then the behaviour cannot be tolerated. control and risk. Douglas Hurd’s view in 1988 was that the causes were: ‘boredom. The only way then of making sense of some actions is to assume that they do not make sense under conventional logic. from the above list we can identify a number of possible motives – financial most difficult to understand as it appears to be ‘meaningless’ but provides an opportunity for them to express their boredom. The argument is that vandalism as a solution to this group’s problems is appropriate. frustration or despair with little chance of being caught and convicted. in symbolic. is then seen as motiveless. 113 . That is. trouble. Vandalism. It offers excitement. As already stated. 14 However. aesthetic pleasure and manufactured malice. in its very senselessness. toughness. it makes sense. stupid drinking and young people’s appetite for excitement’. action.

and that are readily available. Whether this is due to the permanent nature of graffiti tools or the fact that many commercial or political campaigns use print-based (official) media. It is worth noting that flyposting is never mentioned as a form of graffiti and. or totally outside dominant cultures. They are exciting. The nature of the act dictates that the marks have to be made quickly with materials that can be easily carried and concealed. foodstuffs. which can be customised to give a desired effect (chiselled or taped together). Whenever a brand wants to communicate directly with a young audience it can adopt a dialect that suits its particular needs. In art and design. It is often seen as a signal that the marketing department has not been involved in the promotion of a product or service. sportswear.’ 15 The possibilities in loading messages with these second-order signifiers (danger. as Castleman observed. In addition to scratching. The unofficial visual language of graffiti and its associated forms has been used to promote fashion labels. Fuller M.6. Stencil Graffiti (2002) 114 . This draws from a range of visual communication made by amateurs giving it an informal and unofficial flavour. the most popular materials are spray paint and more recently the marker pen. for example. clubs. the medium is readily associated with the stencil lettering to be found on functional packaging and urban street furniture. This gives the stencil an authority and an authenticity with the added benefit of consistency. such as plastic peg letters. cars. The uses have varied from person to person and from situation to situation. drinks and events. authenticity. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE The graffiti writer Visual dialect One formal feature that is common to most graffiti is the materials used to make the work. politics) has certainly not been lost on manufacturers and advertisers. As Tristan Manco points out in his book on stencilling. Manco T. many of these fail to deliver true authenticity as the context plays such a large part in reading the message. A graphic mark on a cereal box is unlikely to be dangerous and exciting simply because it is on a cereal box. the use of the vernacular is a popular way of adding a layer of perceived authenticity and honesty to a whole range of work. dissent. As well as speaking with the right tone of voice. The common characteristic is that flyposters are a medium for groups or individuals with little money or access to the established media. dangerous and subversive. subversion. They look political just through the style. music.’ 14 Stencil graffiti carries a similar set of semiotic values. Flyposter Frenzy (1992) 15. adding to its authenticity. Like the flyposter. remains unclear. The work is often made by hand or by using instant design systems. In truth. the transport police did not target sticker campaigns. unofficial visual language is usually inexpensive to produce. our awareness of their history makes them exciting and subversive: ‘All graffiti is low-level dissent but stencils have an extra history. What is clear is that flyposting also has many of the features of graffiti: ‘Flyposters have provided a cultural form which those on the fringes of. The vernacular is broadly seen as work that is deliberately undesigned. have been able to use with great effect. 14. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.

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certainly displays the speed and gesture of graffiti in his work: ‘. repetition). Blinderman B. and the sheer abandon of graffiti writers “bombing” trains’. too. 17 ‘He did nearly all the subway drawings during the day. arguably. For him.. seemed to recognise the element of performance in making graffiti. Keith Haring (1992) 18. drawing for him was something you did rather than something done..6. even 16. His earliest images on paper show the same authoritative handwriting of his pseudonymous street tags. and was as intent on sharing the act of art making with his audience as he was on leaving behind lasting artworks in the material sense. Basquiat was in a terrible and terrifying hurry. Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Unofficial language and the visual arts A number of the formal values of the vernacular of graffiti can be found in examples of what might be termed fine art (identity.. The most notable exceptions to this are. it was an activity rather than a medium: ‘Haring’s commitment to public performance was backed by his absolute embrace of chance and spontaneity.. few artists have emerged from a background of graffiti with any significant commercial or critical success. unlike the majority of graffiti artists whose work never reaches a gallery. the assuredness of Oriental calligraphers. .M. Storr R. He was inspired in equal parts by the automatism inherent in Jackson Pollock’s and Mark Tobey’s painting process. Basquiat. often at peak times. Two Hundred Beats Per Min (1990) in Gallery R. Basquiat Drawings (1990) 17. (It should be noted here that both these artists received formal art training. materials.) What is interesting is the extent to which the work revealed its background in graffiti when it was transferred from an unofficial context to the official arena of the gallery..’ 16 Haring. no real distinction between figure and ground. spontaneity. who began working as one half of the graffiti team Samo. Blinderman B. 116 . ibid. an activity rather than a medium.’ 18 So already we can see formal similarities between this art and graffiti (speed of execution. And We All Shine On (1992) in Celant G.. spontaneity. However.

In this case. but what of the subject matter and the issues in the work? Neither artist was content. to simply repeat their name. as many writers are. Arguably. both artists demonstrate a greater control over the traditional values of composition.context) but also some important distinctions. spatial arrangements of images on a surface and colour than most graffiti writers. 117 . a recurrence of visual symbols seemed to signal a signature of sorts. Haring works in public spaces on walls at rush hour without arrest and often by invitation. Jean-Michel Basquiat A Panel of Experts 1982 © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP. However. The artists’ work has been sanctioned in some way: Basquiat’s graffiti becomes ‘drawing’ and takes place in a studio on paper and canvas. Paris and DACS London. the canvas itself is constructed in a casual manner like a found object from an urban backstreet. 2010 Lists of personal heroes (including boxers and musicians) repeated over the canvas in his trademark handwriting draws on his background in graffiti.

steps. they’re a real step backwards. And We All Shine On (1992) in Celant G. which he coupled with a variety of architectural or technological objects: the television screen. desire. boxers. The box functions as a catalogue for an exhibition that was staged in a homemade shed situated outside the Tate Gallery in Liverpool. The value of the work was determined by the other signs that surrounded it. oppression. Whether the public considered the work to be art or tactical vandalism before it reached the gallery is unknown. With Basquiat it was lists of personal heroes. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Unofficial language and the visual arts Outlaws Flyers from a boxed collection of objects. a lexicon of signs and symbols reflective of anxiety. euphoria. even if the motives are less certain. This explanation by an 18-year-old art student from Blackpool (who was banned from every railway bridge in Britain in January 1991 after pleading guilty to seven charges of criminal damage with spray cans) seems to sum up the feelings of graffiti writers.3 interview 118 . and hope in an age of digital magic and communications breakdown. Keith Haring (1992) 20.’ 19 There is little to conclude from these notes other than that perhaps the artists’ background in graffiti is evident in the formal qualities of the work. bluesmen and heads. Banksy in Manco T. The work was art because it was placed in an accepted art gallery. The UK-based stencil graffiti artist Banksy has clear views about the essential difference in placing his work in different contexts: ‘ . The only thing that seems certain is that once it appeared in New York galleries it became art. if you’ve been hitting on people with all sorts of images in all sorts of places. as with Carl Andre’s ‘Bricks’. It’s not a spectator sport. flying saucers: ‘Haring’s legacy is a model universe. I’ve done gallery shows and..6. and for that reason is worth quoting in full: 19.1. Stencil Graffiti (2002) 21. Blinderman B. UK. Painting the streets means becoming an actual part of the city. often skulls.’ 20 Perhaps. it is only a matter of one discourse being accepted into the official discourse over a period of time.. whereas Haring used a featureless. The Guardian 21st January 1991 4. almost baby-like outline figure.

It may not be fully appreciated at the moment. but I don’t look upon it as vandalism. but in due course I believe it will be recognised as an art form. Unfortunately a majority of people are ill-informed and don’t understand what the culture is about. Out there in the night with a couple of friends on your own. bland surface which others will see and admire. You’re creating something wonderful and beautiful for others to enjoy. I understand that British Rail don’t want to see murals on their walls. We are adding something colourful to a blank.’ 21 119 . It’s popular art. It’s about self-expression.x ‘It’s a good feeling – like being an outlaw.

the designers literally cut through the boredom of a pair of brown socks with an intricate diecut design featuring a wide variety of sausages. The work is low cost and tends to deal directly with representations of popular role models. The banal presentation and ordinary nature of the socks themselves draws on a vernacular approach to photography. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio Creator: Sagmeister Inc. This sense of the popular. writers. the everyday concerns and the unsanctioned and unprotected space. artists. musicians. favourite food. 120 . architects. designers. This work. where formal values are often the guarantee of credibility.6. France. The diecut sausages have a visual connection to cheap paper doilies that also inhabit a visual culture of banality and anti-design. features all the people who had a significant influence on their work. the studio deliberately celebrates the supposedly low-art culture that is situated outside the legitimate discourse of official visual arts practice. Title: Design Austria Poster Exemplifies: Unofficial language Above – On this poster celebrating the anniversary of Design Austria. friends and family. Creator: Sagmeister Inc. engineers. takes place in highly public urban spaces that have no defensible territory. all position the work in a very different discourse to high art. The portraits in this poster include role models and influences such as actors.’s exhibit in Chaumont. which deliberately avoids any attempt to engage with the conventions of official visual culture. Title: Chaumont Poster Exemplifies: Unofficial language Opposite – This poster for Sagmeister Inc. like much of the work in the unofficial category. By inviting tourist illustrators to New York's Central Park to create the images.

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The production values of the costumes and their naïve. The photographs show a three-dimensional visual expression of a culture of home-made fancy dress that is normally reserved for amateur craft and school plays – a visual vernacular that is firmly sited at the bottom of our cultural hierarchy. The use of these signs on the poster stresses the individualism of the students and shifts attention away from the corporate reading of ‘University’ where the event is sited. The middle-left and bottom-left images were accompanied by the text. These signifiers feel quite out of place when they are brought into a public arena such as a London Underground station. the costumes have a naïvety that draws on folk traditions. The ‘Commuter Thrival’ project (middle/bottom). Creator: Riitta Ikonen Title: Snowflake/Commuter Thrival Exemplifies: Unofficial language Opposite – Riitta Ikonen embraces the vernacular in her carefully constructed images through a combination of bespoke handmade costumes and photography. is a 'communication campaign that aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding public transport through a series of posters visualising people's emotions with custom-made costumes’. but at present it is both a brave and unconventional way to engage commuters during the rush hour and is not part of the authorised visual language for this community. This is supported by the addition of paper leaves that frame the image. it's like a river’ and the middle-right and bottom-right images were captioned. Ikonen adopts a way of making meaning that sits somewhere between fashion and theatre. the work is a personal response to the worries of global warming in her homeland of Finland. simple. In this case. In ‘Snowflake’ (top). It is made using materials that are readily available and produced with domestic tools – characteristic of unofficial work. her costumes are clearly not high fashion or theatrical wardrobe. displayed where the audience might expect to find corporate advertising. 122 . like fancy dress and Hallowe’en. In time. ‘Hey. ‘You should see the sweat under here. the charming handmade outfits are clearly not from a professional theatrical wardrobe. In doing this. graphic use of colour and form sit them amongst a homemade tradition that could be described as theatrical vernacular.6. this type of communication will no doubt become an accepted part of the discourse of public service graphic design. Although the images are beautifully conceived and photographed. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio Creators: Francesca Bunny Williams/ Hannah Waldron Title: University of Brighton – Open Days Poster Exemplifies: Unofficial language Above – This open days poster is a collaborative piece where each designer made two costumes. the central figures on this poster are loaded with second-order signifiers that celebrate the homespun and individualism. underneath all this I'm smiling’. However.

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which are made by placing handwritten texts on the windows of urban housing estates. Creator: Elzo Durt Title: Space Invaders 1@tour du lotto Bruxelles Exemplifies: Unofficial language Right – The cult imagery of the space invader. The combination of low-budget surreal imagery and an edgy location produces a visual dialect that speaks directly to a distinct audience who will sense a credibility in the message because of the appropriate dialect. This type of communication is reminiscent of political protests or personal messages. 124 . from the retro computer game. is given an epic presentation in a domestic urban setting. UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Portfolio Creator: Elzo Durt Title: Veterant Skateboard Poster Exemplifies: Unofficial language Above – The unofficial context of urban space is a backdrop to this street poster for a skateboard manufacturer.6. Durt provides a way of presenting a symbol that sits outside a legitimate or authorised context for visual production.

Creator: Burn Title: Wastebin Exemplifies: Unofficial language Design group Burn uses the visual dialect of graffiti and vandalism as part of its self-promotional work. graffiti carries signification associated with danger or excitement. By employing these visual clues. The reader might expect this group to be young. to be highly individual and to be politically aware or motivated. a group – in this case a design group – is able to suggest that there is something intrinsic in its work that places it outside our conventional understanding of graphic design practice. 125 . Its authors are understood to be outside of the official fields of cultural production and we already know graffiti is an illicit act. In our experience.


which are inpoints on each of the tracks. The use of public urban space as a backdrop is often a feature of unofficial work. drawn quickly with cheap materials. TI broke his normal practice and wrote the lyrics down on whatever was to hand. Creator: Ian Wright Title: TI/Paper Trail Exemplifies: Unofficial language Opposite – Portrait created to promote the studio album by hip hop artist TI. Unofficial communication often uses very low-cost tools and readily available materials. It suggests an audience for the work and lends an authenticity to the content and its visual interpretation.Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES pages 184–185 Creator: Ian Wright Title: Bob Dylan Exemplifies: Unofficial language Left – A portrait of Bob Dylan composed entirely of monochrome button badges. A series of highlighted fingerprints on the vinyl illustrate how the DJ interacts with the record. Creator: Ian Wright Title: Record Prints Exemplifies: Unofficial language Above – The personal marks of the DJ are celebrated in this limited-edition print. This suggests that the authors have no access to official media channels. These accidental signs are supplemented by stickers and handwritten tape marks. and exist as personal notes. and this sets the work apart from sanctioned or authorised work. This work is placed directly alongside flyposters and graffiti. In this case. the marks are deliberate but entirely functional. The button badge is associated with the unsanctioned cultural arena. 127 . The songs for the album were written by the artist as he awaited trial for federal weapons possession charges. The concept of writing on scraps of paper as a record of ideas was translated by illustrator and artist Ian Wright into a dense collage of torn paper. The medium is especially appropriate for Bob Dylan whose protest songs and unconventional style characterise his work. The life-size collage was created on a West London street and an image of it was used on promotional materials. in particular with the underground culture that brings together politics and music. and draws on this context as part of the message. Given the unusual circumstances.



In My Room (Opposite) Illustrations originally produced for ‘The Face’ magazine. He points us to the way in which young people’s lives are actually full of expressions. 130 .7. everyday activities and expressions. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Hyperinstitutionalisation Paul Willis claims there is a vibrant symbolic life and an active symbolic creativity in everyday life. signs and symbols. James Jarvis Ozzy (Above).

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92 per cent of young people listen to radio and 87 per cent buy music. 90 per cent watch television for over 25 hours per week. These figures support Willis’ assertion that the various genres that constitute high art are currently institutions of exclusion.’ 3 It is this tendency of high art to distance itself from these things. simply lack the code and are seen (or may even see themselves) as ignorant or insensitive. the uncultured. Willis P. the style. 1. This is explained as a situation where formal features become the guarantee of an aesthetic rather than a relevance to real-life concerns. music-making and dance. everyday activities and expressions. ibid.. He points us to the way in which young people’s lives are actually full of expressions. simply lack the code and are [Hyperinstitutionalisation]. He goes further to say that in fact these institutions of high art promote a fear of cultural decay in order to strengthen claims for subsidy and privilege. heightened and certainly not everyday. magazines. the rituals of romance and subcultural styles. decoration of bedrooms. the multitude of ways in which young people use. which have no real relationship to young people and their lives.. which often results in what Willis calls hyperinstitutionalisation. Against this. Willis claims there is a vibrant symbolic life and an active symbolic creativity in everyday life. a situation where formal features become the guarantee of an aesthetic rather than a relevance to real-life concerns. 4. 2 per cent of young people (aged 20–24) attend the theatre (the most popular British arts venue)... ibid. despite their not being involved with the arts. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Hyperinstitutionalisation Paul Willis introduces us to the idea of symbolic creativity1 by quoting statistics from the UK General Household Survey2 and it is useful to repeat some of these figures here: 4 per cent of the population attend museums or art galleries. Willis states: ‘. Willis P.7. humanise. 51) 3. signs and symbols. insisting on a prior educational knowledge that leads to a complete dislocation of art from living contexts. 132 . Willis P. The General Household Survey (1983–6) (Cultural Trends p. Common Culture (1990) 2. the banter and drama of friendship groups. decorate and invest with meaning their common and immediate life spaces and social practices – personal styles and choice of clothes: selective and active use of music. He continues by arguing that the arts establishment has done little to discourage the commonly held belief that gallery-based art is special. The people who don’t understand. TV. the uncultured. The people who don’t understand.

which followed the ideas of people like William Morris. This lack of opportunity for necessary symbolic work in the workplace highlights the importance of David Crow Megafamily Sketches and development work from the Megafamily font. artifacts to produce meaning). on and with symbolic resources and raw materials (collections of signs and symbols – for instance the language as we inherit it. seen as human capacity applied through the action of tools on raw materials to produce goods or services (usually through wage labour). Necessary work was. furthermore. all are communicative. 133 . images. whilst all are not productive.’ 4 Play and identity Willis’ definition is somewhat at odds with the English radical tradition of the 1920s and 1930s. songs. However.seen (or may even see themselves) as ignorant or insensitive. He also returns to Bourdieu’s notion of fields by placing the subsidised artist on the periphery of the field of symbolic creativity rather than at the centre. reversing the traditional view by placing the public at the centre. who stressed the dignity of labour in his equation: art = work/pleasure. texts. Willis maintains that this symbolic activity is not only vibrant but necessary because human beings are communicating as well as producing beings. films. He stresses that the necessity of symbolic work has been forgotten and offers us a definition: ‘The application of human capacities to and through. Willis points out that the mechanisation of modern industry has made it impossible to find art in paid work and points to an extreme example where a study of British factory workers found more opportunity for symbolic production in driving to work than there was to be found at work. at this point.

It is worth noting here that Willis sees these activities as transitive. It also places these identities in time and place and defines membership of groups such as race. with opinion divided about whether or not commercial status devalues cultural currency. The practice of symbolic production (where language is both the raw materials and the tools) bringing about new ways of producing meaning. excitement and psychic movement. play in our individual expression. gender. It also places these identities in time and place. Willis then offers a number of examples of what is produced by symbolic creativity. 4. 3. Rosser E. age and religion. The primary communication tool of language which enables interaction and allows us to assess our impact on others and their impact on us. Common Culture (1990) 6. He believes this to be the basis of confidence. Having outlined what symbolic creativity is and what we need in order for it to take place. Willis P. The drama of roles and rituals which we perform with others. Willis separates symbolic creativity from material production and suggests it be seen as symbolic production. It also empowers us with the expectation of being able to change the world we live in and to make our mark on it. The Rules of Disorder (1978) ‘In many ways this is a question of cultural survival for many young people. He suggests that this is how we produce and reproduce our own individual identities: who we are now and who we could become. He outlines four elements needed for necessary symbolic work: 1. 2. gender.’ 5 134 . the increased importance of play has been reflected in the huge growth of commercialised leisure. and Harré R. It is then the informal rather than the formal situation that offers us freedom and choice in symbolic activity. who we are now and who we could become. and defines membership of groups. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Hyperinstitutionalisation This is how we produce and how we reproduce our own individual identities.. According to Willis. age and religion.7. and increasingly this is where our necessary symbolic work takes place. Willis maintains that symbolic creativity is intrinsically attached to energy. Marsh P. The active body (according to Willis this is the site of signs and symbols). feelings. such as race. in that we are constantly experimenting with 5.

. ‘The struggle begins when they see many of the things that seem routine to the rest of us as ways of devaluing them. Studies of football hooligans in the UK also point to the necessity for disenfranchised young people to define their identity in opposition to existing constructs. language or music (for example) works most economically for ourselves. If they are to have any significance.. advertising. their lives must be self-constructed and made significant with the use of home-made materials. magazines and television. Willis stresses the importance of this aspect of symbolic production. .these expressions of identity and have a cultural sense of which haircut. He points out how young people in particular feel marginalised by the constructed visions of youth supplied by our society through institutions.’ 6 135 . This is brought about by the perception of difference between how they are told they should be and how they actually are.

wonderleague. a shop selling vintage clothes. In addition to an illustration portfolio. The web has provided individuals with the opportunity to create a holistic identity that extends far beyond the limits of conventional promotional marketing. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Portfolio 2 Creator: Francesca Bunny Williams Title: retro toys and homewares. Potential clients are invited to immerse themselves in the symbolic creativity that is Bunny Bissoux as they get a contemporary portrait of the includes personal photographs. 136 . choice of clothes. shoes. Exemplifies: Symbolic creativity Personal lifestyle. eccentric visual imagery and subcultural styles are all part of the way that Bunny Williams (aka Bunny Bissoux) describes her identity on her website.wonderleague.

These items form part of a personal obsession with geometric shapes and how they symbolise human qualities. where the magazine and the T-shirt are one and the same. This work is playful. These qualities are ideal for experimentation with personal symbolism and enable us to place our identity in specific groups and periods. Kate Moross also offers her audience the opportunity to share her expression of individualism with a range of ephemeral items available through her online shop. The front of the T-shirt functions as the cover of the magazine and the content is printed inside. This brings together two important cultural reference points for young people in exercising their symbolic creativity. low cost and accessible. 137 .Creator: Kate Moross Title: ‘T-Post’ (T-shirt) Magazine/Badge Sets/Bag Exemplifies: Symbolic creativity The importance of clothing in the expression of identity is harnessed by a Swedish magazine.

the way they communicate and the music they listen to. An event in a carefully chosen venue is a very important sign. The brief was to visualise the connection between basketball culture and London street style. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Portfolio Creator: Kate Moross Title: Nike Dunk/Be True Exemplifies: Symbolic creativity For the celebration of the Dunk 23rd Anniversary. Clearly. The designer referenced a series of interviews where people talked about their aesthetic and the importance they place on the way they represent themselves in their clothing. This creates a sense of ownership of the brand by the people who use it to express themselves through lifestyle choices. Kate Moross collaborated with Neil Bedford and Carrie Mundane to produce a range of life-size illustrated photographic portraits for an exhibition sited in London’s hip Brick Lane. The context of the project is as important as the visual language used.7. Kate Moross Nike Dunk / Be True Symbolic Creativity 138 . it is important for brands to reflect the personal symbolism of their audience in the objects they manufacture.

139 .

designers can also use personal and cultural reference points to signify who they are and what excites them visually.7. SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY Portfolio Creators: Ian Mitchell (Left)/Michael O’Shaughnessy (Right)/Seel Garside (Opposite) Titles: Event Poster – Bellini/Kogumaza/ Cath and Phil Tyler Exemplifies: Symbolic creativity A series of posters advertising a single music event. designers are occasionally given the opportunity to express their identity using the tools and media of mass production. the content of the event is overridden by the desire to produce a playful set of personal gestures. A group of designers and educators express their individualism through their interpretation of an event at their local art school. 140 . In these examples. Just as most people employ a set of personal signs and symbols to identify themselves with subcultural groups. Unlike most of the population.




Douglas M. ibid. Purity and Danger (1966) 2. Douglas M. Dirt has been rejected in a process of classification as the elements that are out of place. 144 . 1.8. JUNK AND CULTURE Dirt and taboo Mary Douglas points out that dirt is the by-product of a system of order. Douglas argues that if we look at what counts as dirt then we can begin to understand and identify the system that rejects it.

underclothing appearing where overclothing should be and so on. our pollution behaviour is the reaction which condemns any object or idea likely to confuse or contradict cherished classifications. upstairs things downstairs. but it is dirty to place them on the dining table. which has clear categories used to organise the signs into a hierarchy of importance or use: 'Shoes are not dirty in themselves. similarly bathroom equipment in the drawing room. In short.' 2 145 .' 1 'Where there is dirt there is a system. food is not dirty in itself. outdoor things indoors. or food bespattered on clothing. but it is dirty to leave cooking utensils in the bedroom. clothing lying on chairs.Our ideas about what constitutes dirt are part of a symbolic system of signs.

JUNK AND CULTURE Dirt and taboo Douglas shows us that the threat of danger is often used as a justification of social convention. we need to rebuild a picture of the systems of signification that lie beneath the decision to reject it from the system. Dangerous germs may lurk in the chip. This helps to define the category and describe what is at the margins of fashionably acceptable. In this sense then. To understand why something has been rejected. which are the agreed practice in our society. We have also discussed the interplay between the two and how one cannot exist without the other. She points out that what’s really under threat is the semiotics of ordered social conventions. we need to know what has been rejected as inappropriate in any given situation. to understand what is currently fashionable in typography. Unofficial language is the dirt in a system that has rejected it in favour of an accepted and legitimate language choice: 146 . For example. ready to make us ill. We might well be endangering our health or that of our family by not throwing out an item of chipped crockery. we can see that the study of dirt or rubbish is a semiotic study.8. In order to comprehend what constitutes legitimate language. you would need to look at what has been discarded as unfashionable. In chapters five and six we looked at the idea of official and unofficial language.

dirt is essentially disorder. Disorder has no pattern in itself but its potential for making pattern is infinite.'As we know it. Disorder. 3. the enemy of pattern. Douglas M. could then be considered unlimited. there is then an implication that pattern is restricted in some way. Douglas argues that in the first instance we recognise that disorder destroys existing patterns but also that it has huge potential. This leads us to view disorder as a symbol of both danger and power.' 3 Since order and pattern are made from a limited selection of elements. Purity and Danger (1966) 147 .

The value of durable cultural objects are maintained or even increased over time. have more The Mercedes Benz motor car is an example of what could be described as a durable object. which in time will become a significant part of our life. but there is also a social dimension that attributes value based on the values in our society. Framing the Sign (1988) 148 . in some cases. garages and lofts: old football programmes. Some of this is rubbish we have inherited: my father’s pen and a watch that doesn't work. This category also includes items that may have started life as fairly inexpensive and common but have become durable because there is a collector’s marketplace for them. for example. do we read these cupboards full of everyday rubbish? Much of this material functions as souvenirs. Culler J. my grandfather’s penknife and ration book from the 1940s. the collected material has no economic value nor any practical use. Foodstuffs are an obvious example of transient objects. Visual constructions often use these sorts of items to signify memory in some way. They have no finite lifespan. then how. asks Culler. Thompson M. Transient cultural objects have a finite life span and their economic value decreases over time. This is the rubbish that we all have stored away in spare rooms. For these reasons we can consider it rubbish. 4. However. but the term could also refer to objects that are susceptible to the whims of fashion. Rubbish Theory (1988) in Culler J. whose value is maintained or. Framing the Sign (1988) 5. Semiotic categories of objects This relationship between rubbish and value is clarified by Michael Thompson in his essay ‘Rubbish Theory’5. Antiques are a good example of durable objects. they may even be considered as having an infinite lifespan. Certain recordings. comics. JUNK AND CULTURE Rubbish theory In his essay ‘Rubbish Theory’4. If dirt is evidence of a system of classification. Thompson identifies three semiotic categories of objects that have a direct relation to economic value. Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value (1979) in Culler J. This illustrates that it is not only the physical properties of an object that categorise it. Perhaps it signifies for us an experience we have had or something we have seen. tickets and coins. in most cases. Jonathan Culler invites us to consider the rubbish that is not particularly dirty or taboo. especially those handed down by your parents. postcards. as rubbish. These objects were all edited from a wider set of rubbish where some things were kept and others rejected. increased over a period of time. You may find it disrespectful to consider mementos.8.



AND CULTURE Rubbish theory


value now than they did when new, as do commemorative items from historical events, such as a keyring from the Queen’s coronation. In brand advertising, many objects are presented in a way that reinforces their durable qualities. Mercedes Benz, Timberland and Rolex are all brands whose products are deliberately bound up in the notion of durability. Thompson points out that those who have wealth or power will strive to keep their objects in the durable category and ensure that the transient objects of others remain so. This is a necessary step, as we know it is possible for objects to shift from one category to another, and the transfer of economic value follows this shift. To explain how this change is possible, Thompson identifies a third, less obvious category. This category contains objects that have an unchanging value of zero. Thompson outlines a scenario where the transient object

gradually loses value until it is worthless. It remains in this valueless state until someone rediscovers it and transforms it into a durable object. We have all experienced revivalist fashion coming from an utterly unfashionable period. Styles that have only recently waned in popularity rarely make a successful comeback, whereas a style that has been discarded always has the potential for being very fashionable again. Thompson's ‘Rubbish Theory’6 describes how transient cultural objects can only move to the durable category once they have been considered rubbish. Buying a classic car or a piece of antique furniture is about buying into the semiotic idea of durable objects. The way we treat our objects is also a sign of which category we believe they belong in. We might cherish and maintain our classic car, carefully restoring the most banal detail to its original state. However, if we have a new model that declines in value, we are at some point likely

... those who have wealth or power will strive to keep their objects in the durable category and ensure that the transient objects of others remain so.

6. Thompson M. Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value (1979) in Culler J. Framing the Sign (1988)


Sitwell S. she describes two stages that dirt must go through to achieve creative symbolism. but it still has some identity in that it can be recognised as the unwanted item. where Mary Douglas poses the question of whether dirt.' 8 Douglas states that as long as there is no identity then dirt is not dangerous. It will sit untouched for years. Over time. We may eventually pay a scrap metal dealer to tow away our worthless vehicle. She argues that it is in this formless state that dirt can function as a sign of growth as much as a sign of decay. The argument concludes that everything that applies to the purifying role of water in religious symbolism could also be applied to dirt. Purity and Danger (1966) 'Earth should be a cloud of dust. to count its grains. this identity gradually disappears until the unwanted item becomes part of the general mass of rubbish. Dirt is seen to be unwanted. This completes a cycle where dirt moves from a non-differentiated state to a differentiated state (recognised and classified as dirt) and then finally back to its original state of non-differentiation as part of the general mass of discarded dirt. With no room even for our skeletons. When all are alike and there is no difference in them. dirt must be differentiated as being out of place. Agamemnon’s Tomb (1972) in Douglas M. It is wasted time to think of it. which is normally destructive. which present shopping as a new religion. First. a soil of bones. in the process of imposing order. 152 . 7. At this stage it is not differentiated in any way. In her exploration of this question. It is simply not worth any further investment. This theory appears to draw inspiration from ‘Purity and Danger’7. just as it was before it became classified as dirt. JUNK AND CULTURE Rubbish theory to let things go wrong if we plan to replace it. only to be rediscovered two or three decades later as a classic and be bought by a collector for restoration.8. Purity and Danger (1966) 8. however. can ever be considered creative. Douglas M. David Crow Masterlux The Baptist Signs from Christianity are mixed with consumerist signs as part of a series of screen prints.



AND CULTURE Rubbish as a resource

A debate often ensues where those who wish to establish an object as a durable, draw on the discourse of legitimate language to justify the transition.

These are part of our world of leisure and are broadly categorised as part of our cultural heritage. These we see as durables. Culler points out that cultural rubbish has become a valuable resource in the visual arts. He cites the example of Carl Andre's ‘Bricks’ bought by the Tate Gallery in 1972. This pile of common household bricks would have been considered rubbish by many who saw it at the time. They may well have had a similar pile of unwanted bricks in their own backyard. However, the museum who bought the work saw it as part of the category of durables. The work had been 'authorised' by the museum, and arrangements of common rubbish made by recognised artists became collectable again. A marketplace for similar
9. Culler J. ‘Rubbish Theory’ in Culler J. Framing the Sign (1988)

As we have already seen in chapter five, there are clear hierarchies at play in cultural production. The fine arts are generally considered a more significant practice than design disciplines. The work produced by each of these areas is also considered differently in terms of their importance as cultural objects. In his essay ‘Rubbish Theory’9, Jonathan Culler describes two types of cultural artefact. First, there are artefacts that are part of the practical world: utilitarian objects, such as newspapers, magazines and television. These are considered transient cultural objects. Then there are artefacts that have no obvious purpose and are presented as being separate from commercial or practical concerns.


The transient object gradually loses value until it is worthless. It remains in this valueless state until someone rediscovers it and transforms it into a durable object.

Marcel Duchamp Hat Rack and Urinal 1917 © Succession Marcel DuChamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2010

artefacts had been established and ‘Bricks’ increased in value. More recently, the same gallery came under fire from the popular press over the display of Tracey Emin's ‘Bed’, which was surrounded by an assortment of household rubbish. Although there is little concern shown when transient objects become rubbish, the transformation from rubbish to durable always provokes a strong reaction. Those who wish to establish an object as a durable often draw on the discourse of legitimate language to justify the transition. There are a number of earlier examples of this transition, where an equally vociferous outcry heralded their appearance. If we look at the self-proclaimed anti-art Dada

movement, there are numerous examples that use rubbish as a resource to change the way we approach the notion of what constitutes art. Marcel Duchamp's sculptures from the early part of the twentieth century (such as ‘Bicycle Wheel’, ‘Hat Rack’ and ‘Urinal’) were all discarded functional objects that became durables. These are now cited as classic pieces of art; serving as inspiration for generations of visual artists.


various pieces of discarded scrap metal are reconfigured as a highly robust safety deposit for chocolate buttons. more importantly. a dialogue about the work to increase its cultural and monetary value. JUNK AND CULTURE Portfolio Creator: Hazel Jones Title: Chocolate Button Safe Exemplifies: Rubbish to durable Above – Jones’ work is based around an exploration of forgotten everyday objects. 156 . Jones demonstrates the ability of the visual arts to transform the economic and cultural value of worthless objects by placing them in a different context and in a different dialogue. Once rediscovered. In this example. Creator: Hazel Jones Title: String Too Small for Use Exemplifies: Rubbish to durable Opposite – These objects form part of an extensive collection of discarded items. these objects can be reinvented to evoke memories and histories with new and unexpected uses. With entire websites devoted to individual categories such as ‘Rusty Nails’ or ‘Scrapmetal’.8. an iconic confectionery from the artist’s childhood. The semiotic value of the original material is very low and it is this value that is transformed as the artist uses a set of technical skills and.


JUNK AND CULTURE Portfolio 158 .8.

This is a deliberate graphic juxtaposition of the cheap display signs found in low-cost marketplaces selling transient items. which renders them as artefacts in the visual language of a museum or gallery catalogue. The cover of this edition is double-printed in fluorescent orange and foil-blocked in gold. England. The interior spreads display a series of photographs of discarded objects that are isolated from their functional context and placed against a flat black or white background. such as fruit and vegetables. such as expensive perfumes. Both the hand of the maker and the editioning of work become signs that increase the economic and cultural value of the object. Manchester. 159 . This issue features objects from the collection of two artists/designers – Sharon Blakey and Hazel Jones. making direct reference to the language of the art world. The inside front cover features handmade additions that draw the reader’s attention to the object’s limited-edition status. Creator: David Crow Title: St Peter Exemplifies: Rubbish to durable Above – An old chair rescued from a skip becomes the centrepiece of an art print.Creator: David Crow Title: ‘Emblem’ – Rubbish Issue Exemplifies: Rubbish to durable Opposite – Spreads from an in-house magazine at the School of Art. alongside the high-cost packaging on durable items. The chair’s valueless status is changed as it becomes part of a limited-edition cultural object.

8. JUNK AND CULTURE Portfolio 160 .

the transfer of value from the artist to the object is underlined by the presence of hand-drawn elements that personalise the work and function as the artist’s signature. In ‘Guarda el Polvo’. 161 . the work becomes authorised and valuable again. Reviews.Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES page 185 Creator: Rodrigo de Filippis Titles: Guarda el Polvo (Opposite). In bringing together a set of disparate. The future value of works like these will then depend on the discourse that happens around them. exhibitions and publications featuring the work all contribute to a value system that collectively determines their worth. Aparejo Potencial (Above) Exemplifies: Rubbish to durable A variety of found images and discarded ephemera are recombined by Filippis to create these prints. The worthless scraps of imagery are given value by the artist placing them in a new context. worthless objects in an arrangement made by an artist.



WORK The open work

1. Eco U. The Open Work (1989) (first published 1962) 2. Zeman J. Peirce’s Theory of Signs (1977) in Sebeok T. A Perfusion of Signs (1977)

The term ‘The Open Work’1 comes from the book of the same name written by Umberto Eco, a philosopher and semiotician born in Piedmont, Italy, in 1932. The work was first published in 1962 and remains a significant piece of writing today as it anticipated important developments in contemporary art. In particular, Eco is interested in the relationship between the author of a work of art and the reader.


rather than the more common term ‘code’. Eco prefers the term ‘encyclopedia’ to describe the transfer of meaning through the use of signs. we know that the reader’s background affects the way that the message is reassembled. The ideal reader is not so much a perfect reader who interprets the work exactly as the author intended. he describes a situation where the work of art is addressed to an ideal reader who will select from the suggested readings of the work. but each of us brings an individual perspective to the reading based on our culture. whereas encyclopedia suggests that there are a number of interrelated interpretations and the reader must negotiate their own path through the network of possibilities. However. suggest that there are an infinite number of readings. we receive a work of art as the end product of an intended message. however. he does not. This message has been assembled and organised by the author in a way that makes it possible for the reader to reassemble it for themselves as the author intended. a code implies a one-to-one transfer of meaning like a dictionary definition. For Eco. background and experiences. The overall meaning of the message may be constant. 165 . Rather. Eco places particular emphasis on the role of the reader as an important part of the creative process. As readers. Although Eco sees an openness in the reading of signs.Like Peirce2 before him. but as a reader who is awake to the possibilities that the work contains.

by asking the musician to interpret the work in their own way. OPEN WORK The open work odds that the addressee will know content of message after receiving it information = log odds that the addressee will know content of message before receiving it If a newsflash tells me that tomorrow the sun will rise. reproduced here for reference. in this case the musician. When Eco published ‘The Open Work’. What is the conceptual framework for the piece? In the visual arts there has been a shift towards a greater personal involvement on the part of the reader. Eco uses the mathematical science of information theory to measure the relationship between the amount of information that the reader receives and the openness of a work. then I have a lot of information as this is a highly improbable event. He suggests that the amount of information contained in a message is dependent on the probability of the reader already knowing the content of the message before it is received. movements that questioned our traditional views on representation and meaning. Along with a greater degree of formal innovation has come a greater degree of ambiguity. The Role of the Reader (1979) Eco sees art as a performance3 because each reader finds a new interpretation and much of his writing focuses on musical performances as examples of the open work. the art world was dominated by developments such as abstract expressionism and action painting. is conscious and explicit. which essentially proposes that the amount of information contained in a message is inversely proportional to the probability or predictability of the message. If. I have been given very little information as I could have worked this out for myself. the newsflash tells me that the sun will not rise. If.9. It called for the reader to work harder to find meaning. In this way. Composers such as Stockhausen are cited because the work is open in a more obvious way than in the visual arts. however. Indeed. then I have a lot of information as this is a highly improbable event. however. 3. Information and meaning In an attempt to help define what he means by openness. contemporary art is highly unpredictable because it often dismisses the established semiotic conventions and rules 166 . If a newsflash tells me that tomorrow the sun will rise. with the invitation to interpret the material for themselves. the work is obviously incomplete until the reader is involved. Eco presents a mathematical formula. It is important to note that he sees information to be a different thing to meaning or message. I have been given very little information as I could have worked this out for myself. For Eco. the newsflash tells me that the sun will not rise. The composer supplies the musician with a kit of parts. The freedom on the part of the reader. Eco U. the artist invites them to ask why they would want to work in this way.

167 .DON’T BELIEVE A WORD The amount of information contained in a message depends on where it originates and on its probability.

we begin to describe a timeline and we see the figure in a changing narrative. which were current when ‘The Open Work’ was written. yet it doesn’t add to our existing knowledge. The example he uses is the traditional Western Christmas card: a seasonal greeting sent each year between families and friends. In these cases. Similarly. We still read the forms in the paintings as people or buildings or bridges. The reader is now conscious of the movement of light around the subjects. In other words. if not the forms they signify. the nature of the sign itself is not affected. Although the message is essentially the same (Merry Christmas). Openness and the visual arts Eco focuses on the painting styles of abstract expressionism and action painting. He also points out that the amount of information contained in a message is affected by another factor: our confidence in the source of the message. The use of repetition or the addition of trace lines around an image have long been established as signifiers of movement. or figurative painting. It is tempting to assume that information and meaning are the same thing. To receive a Christmas card from the secret police would be very different from receiving a card from a favourite aunt. However. by virtue of its radical nature. if we repeat a figure a number of times across the same work but in different settings. the nature of the sign itself has become ambiguous. These are signs that work on fixed structures and have been around for as long as we have used images to communicate. Eco argues that contemporary art contains much higher amounts of information. for example. 168 . I would be more inclined to believe him as he has nothing to gain by fabricating this message. OPEN WORK The open work that preceded it. but according to Eco they have acquired an inner vibrancy. In these examples. the blurred images that became possible with the introduction of the camera or the gestural marks of abstract expressionism. However. More conventional forms of communication. For example. there are a number of ways in which movement is signified in the visual arts. He describes how these can be seen on one level as the latest in a series of experiments to introduce movement into painting. if a landlord were to tell me an apartment had damp problems before I rented it. Compare this with the ambiguous forms of the Impressionist painters. Compare this to the statement: Christmas is an annual festival. we can see from these examples that the amount of information is greater where the source is improbable.9. though not necessarily more meaning. may carry more distinct meaning but much less information. merely the position of the signs relative to each other. the amount of information varies hugely because of the improbability of the source. the amount of information is low despite the communicative value being high. such as the road sign. This has a very clear and direct meaning with no ambiguity.

169 .

there are signs that merely seek to give information as opposed to meaning. Can the reader detect the intentions of the author of the work? Is an agreement between the two discernible? Some types of visual communication clearly need structure and order. decide for themselves what is foreground and background. pictograms bridge the gap between the technical world and language. OPEN WORK The open work Similarly. signs that. An obvious example of this is the sculptural mobiles of artists like Alexander Calder. Is the work legible and how do we stop it descending into a chaotic visual noise or a complete communicative silence? Openness and information Eco is interested in the tension between the information offered to the reader and the level of comprehension needed for the work to be interpreted. Theoretically. They can choose their own viewpoint. where the practical application is less important. The open work offers the reader a field of open possibilities. and make their own connections between different parts of what they see. the work offers the possibility that no two experiences of it will be the same. with the gestural marks of abstract expressionism. because of their practical application. In other cases. we are reading the way the mark is made. 170 . need to be read and understood quickly. the action that has left this mark as evidence. The question one invariably asks of work like this is whether or not it communicates.9. In situations where speed of communication is important.

In fact. needs to be read and understood quickly. electric pylons). If we spill ink on a blank sheet of paper we are presented with a random image that has no order. there are many examples of work that deliberately seek to avoid what Eco calls ‘the laws of probability that govern common language’4. The heads by Ian Wright work on quite a different level. The Open Work (1989) (first published 1962) 171 . In contemporary art and design. In situations where speed of communication is important. these pictograms bridge the gap between the technical world and language. because of its practical application (poisonous chemicals. in this instance the reader is invited to bring their own meaning and character to the drawings. If we then fold the paper in two and transfer the image on to both sides of the paper. No particular direction is given to the reader in terms of how to interpret the image. Eco U.Ian Wright Heads The skull and crossbones is a symbol that. he points out that contemporary art draws its value from this deviation from common structures. Another way of looking at these signs is to see them as seeking to deliver not a single meaning but an abundance of possible meanings. 4. we now have an image with some order.

.9. This visual signal shows us that these cracks have been chosen over other cracks. a piece of discarded material can become an artefact once it has been framed. the order is symmetry – a simple form of probability. Eco uses this as evidence that: ‘. The reader could begin to connect these marks in an infinite number of ways. As we saw in chapter eight. In this case.’ 5 He maintains that this is a characteristic of any visual communication that wants to be understood but also wants to allow a degree of freedom to the reader. 5. We are not likely to make one reading of the information above another. but denies it altogether. make paper pulp and roll it out to dry as a sheet again. What we have is the visual equivalent of white noise. It doesn’t communicate. there would be a huge number of dots and marks across the surface of the paper. Although the image still offers a good deal of freedom to the reader in terms of interpretation. OPEN WORK The open work .. but there would be no discernable direction for the reader. they now have some direction. Merely by isolating them they have become artefacts. contains a maximum amount of information but is utterly meaningless. they have called attention to them. The Open Work (1989) (first published 1962) 172 . Eco U. This excess of possibilities does not increase the information. The image is now extremely open. Our pavements and roadways are peppered with cracks and holes. Some of these are framed with brightly coloured squares painted by the highways agency to mark their priority for repair. He points out how the intention of the author may be enough to give the work a value.a piece of discarded material can become an artefact once it has been framed.the richest form of communication – richest because most open – requires a delicate balance permitting the merest order within the maximum disorder. If we were to shred the paper.. The reader now has some visual reference points that can be connected together to suggest a way of reading the image..

173 . By choosing to isolate a particular part of a pattern we immediately make it an artefact.Highlighted Cracks and Holes Much of what an artist does is to make choices.

Openness is pleasure. but proposes instead a new flexible form – a field of possibilities. is in this mark. OPEN WORK The open work The mark does not merely stand for the action – it is the action. The marks are the signifier of the gesture but not a symbolic sign for the gesture. They could be considered analogue codes rather than digital codes.9. trying to interpret the intentions of the author as they do so. will lead us eventually to the intention of the person who made the mark. Our visual culture invites us to view the world as a world of possibilities. The gesture and the sign are fused together. according to Eco. Form and openness Eco reassures us that the informal sign does not mark the death of form in the visual arts. whose meaning has been learnt. The mark does not merely stand for the action – it is the action. is fixed by this mark. The reader searches for as many possible associations as they can in a game of pleasure and surprise. Eco argues that in allowing the reader to freely associate the signs. we read the message but rarely do we marvel at the aesthetics of the sign. they can enjoy the experience of doing this whilst simultaneously enjoying the aesthetics of the signs. like music or the gestural movements of dance. Only those of us with a particularly strong industrial aesthetic would enjoy the effectiveness of the way the sign is made. which belong to a defined set of signs and whose meaning we have learnt (like road signs or letters of the alphabet). 174 . There is no predetermined collection of these signs. Reading the original gesture that leaves this mark. a guarantee of communication with added pleasure. The two things are connected together in a way not to be found in the reading of more conventional signs. it is this underlying intention that distinguishes a work of art from the patterns of the cracked pavement. Unlike symbolic signs. The gestural marks and spatters of abstract painting stimulate the viewer to make their own connections in the work. When we read the road sign. Open work in the visual arts is. The gesture and the sign are fused together. these abstract marks need interpretation. According to Eco.

.Openness is pleasure.

However. photography and drawing. It is this balance between order and disorder that Eco argues is what makes open work so compelling.9. 176 . OPEN WORK Portfolio Creator: Andreas Banderas Title: Untitled Collages Exemplifies: Open work The psychedelic photomontages by Norwegian designer/illustrator Andreas Banderas invite the reader to find their own clues in an unpredictable set of signs that avoid conventional readings. The juxtaposition of signs from differing paradigms result in rich mixes of pattern. which come from such disparate sources that the viewer has to invent their own logic to find poetic links between all the elements. Each of the components are signs we have experienced before and alongside a more conventional set of signs we could easily construct a narrative around them. in this form the unexpected combinations slow down our reading and force us to work on the relationships between each component.

The designer describes her own reading of the poster as ‘Mondrian goes to Tehran’. Using the themes of scarcity and abundance. Bantjes has deliberately set out to create an open work that encourages individual readings and interpretations on an abstract level.Creator: Marian Bantjes Title: Pop!Tech Conference – Poster Exemplifies: Open work The designer was asked to create a poster for the 2008 Pop!Tech conference. The geometry appears to come from a Modernist paradigm. detailed pattern and elegant calligraphic marks. the resulting poster is a curious mixture of asymmetrical geometry. Bantjes’ intention was to make a poster that would appeal to everyone but allow for varying interpretations by a diverse and eclectic audience. The overlaying of these three ideas defies a simple and quick reading of the work and invites the reader to bring their personal experiences and references to the semiosis. the pattern is perhaps from the decorative arts of the Middle East and the calligraphy seems to have its roots in the elegant calligraphic treatments of Middle Eastern publishing. 177 .

The bold graphic notations form an overall composition that functions like a set of freestanding nouns. The absence of text allows the imagery to float free of any fixed meaning and we are left with an intriguing impression of the venue rather than a description of it. the tiles signify ‘tiles’.9. ‘medals’. Similarly. The monkey seems to just signify ‘monkey’. OPEN WORK Portfolio Creator: Burn Title: Alma De Santiago Exemplifies: Open work The imagery created for this South American bar and restaurant gives the reader a chance to find meaning from an unusual set of signifiers. fruit signifies ‘fruit’ and the medals. They invite a form of surreal visual poetry that asks the reader to fill in the missing words for themselves. They appear to represent ideas and objects without surrounding adjectives. This openness brings a sense of atmosphere and mood rather than distinct meaning. 178 .

179 .

Created in the retro software Hypercard. Within these restrictions. shapes and tones. 180 . OPEN WORK Portfolio Go to SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES page 185 Creator: Jonathan Hitchen Title: Automatic Drawings Exemplifies: Open work A small sample from a potentially infinite number of drawings made by the computer using a set of predetermined marks.9. the author imposes their signature in a choice of marks and a distinct bitmap aesthetic. the author suggests the possibility of a limitless range of unfixed signs for the reader to explore and create for themselves. This celebrates the mechanical element of the work and the computer as a delivery platform.

‘Forever’ was created by Matt Pyke and Karsten Schmidt for Universal Everything using sound files created by Simon Pyke. It also allows viewers the opportunity to read the motion. in the John Madejski Garden in 2008. based on the concept of manipulating a length of string. In this work. sound and visuals in a highly personalised way.Creator: Universal Everything Title: Forever Exemplifies: Open work A generative video-wall installation displayed on a large screen at London’s V&A Museum. but with enough control for the forms to remain coherent. custom-made generative coding creates sound and visuals around a set of pre-determined parameters. 181 . where the key is to give just enough control to the possible chaos by limiting the parameters of what can and can’t happen. The open nature of the piece’s construction allows for a skilfully made set of possibilities to animate effectively. The work is made by writing abstract algorithms. The images. weave a series of patterns that are entirely self-generating and never repeat.

de Saussure F. you could reference international road or safety symbols. Generate or collect a series of contexts or locations. ibid. Here you will find marks and images that have a number of meanings depending on their context and the ways that they are combined. These could be images cut from old magazines or photographs you have taken yourself. 15). the way they are organised into systems and the context in which they appear. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) 2. Think about how the meaning of the mark shifts 182 . Using a pinboard or sketchbook. 1: COMPONENTS There are three main areas that form what we understand as semiotics: the signs themselves.SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES r 1. Many artists and designers find it difficult to explore theoretical material in academic writing. locations and compositions). position the marks on the different contexts. Ensure variety in the examples you use (for example. It is often easier to translate our thoughts and ideas into words by reflecting on experiences we have had or things we have made. Below are a series of short exercises that will help to exemplify the ideas in ‘Visible Signs’ through practical application. Exercise 1 Context Collect a number of simple set graphic marks that all have the same origin (for example. If you are not sure where to start. a variety of periods. de Saussure F. a set of crosses as featured on p.

then work the other way round. You could use a familiar short journey.’ 1 Exercise 3 Icon/Index/Symbol Collect a set of graphic signs from the environment. This way you will generate an iconic signage system. Choose a familiar narrative so that you can concentrate on how to translate rather than writing a story. placing one symbol inside another. 16) or from the US Department of Transport (see p. Exercise 5 Relationships and meaning Collect a series of photographs of recognisable objects and/or people. Keep these in your notebook for future reference. where the central or key image is unchanged but the images on either side vary from sentence to sentence. create a short narrative without using words. its colour. Write down a sentence in words as your eyes read the images and then reflect on whether the key image changed in meaning. Exercise 2 Duality Using well-known symbols that function as a set. redesign them so that they fall into a different category. Try changing the scale. 31 as a symbol rather than an iconic sign. Using these images. Write some brief notes to accompany each example as you reflect on the compositions. redesign the sign for the shopping centre on p.depending on the context. For example. Think about how you can change the meaning of a symbol by changing its relationship to other symbols. Categorise these signs as either ‘icon’ or ‘index’ or ‘symbol’. despite not being modified in any way. When you feel confident at generating and reading these sentences. making a symbol from multiples of another symbol or cutting them up and joining them to other sections of other symbols. The symbols could be from a child’s reading book (see p. Choose images that are unambiguous and iconic. Compare this story to the one you had in your mind and use any differences as the starting point for a discussion about why the stories vary. its scale or the period it is placed in. or a combination. Find three sentences with a common key figure or word and generate the imagery to describe each sentence. paying attention to whether or not the system gradually breaks down the further you go from the area. Proof of this is that the value of a term may be modified without either its meaning or its sound being affected.’ 2 Exercise 4 Value Take a series of photographs that aim to tell a story about a particular issue. a regular routine or a classic fairytale as your narrative. Once your narrative is complete. Similarly. 2: HOW MEANING IS FORMED ‘In a language state everything is based on relations. 183 . you could try redesigning signage from your local area based on the architecture rather than on the function or service. solely because a neighbouring term has been modified. You are effectively changing the value relationship between a sign and the signs that surround it. This would mean that the sign was clearly about ‘shopping’ rather than relying on recognition of the centre’s architecture. Using these images make a series of visual sentences in your sketchbook. You could take ‘big’ issues like environmental waste or site your work closer to home with an issue that is important to your local community. You could test the results on a sample group of residents. ask a partner to read you the story from the pictures. make a series of cropped versions of each photograph. Make multiple prints of one or two of the images that you feel are most successful at telling the story. Try to figure out why you read each one in a particular way and where you learnt to do so. Using these signs as a starting point. 18). ‘The idea or phonic substance that a sign contains is of less importance than the other signs around it.

generate an image yourself to accompany your ‘found’ image. Deconstruct one or two of these so you are clear about who the audience is and how the manufacturer or supplier wants to position themselves. Collect several pages of advertisements from magazines. Try drawing these signs in a variety of different ways. beautiful. Mark the space by using the tape you have created. by finding images that can be used to generate a metaphor when combined with something else. special). and try to find unusual locations where you can use the tape to draw attention to a quality that is not immediately obvious. Think about the way the words are displayed (the speech) and the colours you use. and try to find instances where the meanings have changed entirely. eccentric. but you are also anchoring the meaning of the space by using the words on the tape. (In practice. is transferred by simply placing a butterfly inside the stomach of a robot. Take photographs of the taped spaces. the use of words. Overlay a word on one of the images to fix or anchor the meaning of the composition. Can you update these original signs by drawing them in a particular way? In other words. on p. Write down all the possible meanings that could be read from having these two images side by side. 184 . Create a roll of tape that features one of these words as a repeat. 4: IMAGE AND TEXT Exercise 9 Duets Find a photographic image from a magazine or newspaper that you find particularly compelling. For example. 42 the idea of being nervous.) Choose a number of exterior or interior spaces that you feel represent your adjectival choices. Make something feel natural or clean or dangerous. often described as ‘butterflies’.SELF-DIRECTED STUDY: EXERCISES Exercise 6 Metaphor Using the same series of images from exercise 3. using different line qualities. 5 + 6: OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE Exercise 10 The magical act This exercise is about recognising the features that characterise a piece of communication as either official or unofficial. These may be photographs of graffiti tags or marks made by individuals very quickly or in an informal way. Record a number of signs that you feel are characteristically unofficial marks. Is the product appealing to professional people? Is it expensive or affordable and accessible? Try to be clear about what the clues are. the choice of typeface and so on. The resulting image could be described as an index sign because of the relationship between the word and the location. Think about the age group of the audience and their demographic. for example. You are playing with various connotations by the way you photograph the locations. the way the logo is drawn. Using this image as the starting point. This could be the way the image or illustration is presented. and attempting to take a piece of communication from one area to another. 3: READING THE SIGN Exercise 7 Language and speech Look through historic examples of signs and symbols. this can simply be a roll of paper made by joining laser printouts together. look for ways where two or more of the images can be combined to transfer the properties associated with one image to something else. can you add contemporary speech to an ancient language or sign? Exercise 8 Connotation/Index/Metonym Choose a number of adjectives at random (dirty. a coat of arms used as a football club’s crest or university logo. Try a number of different words to see how this third sign controls the way we read the semiotic relationships. For example.

you will need to document a collection of objects that are overlooked by almost everyone who sees or experiences them. make drawings and try not to determine the outcome during the research stage. signs and symbols. Your role is to explore how you can present these objects in a way that gives them a cultural value that belies their ordinariness and elevates them to exhibits. To do this. 7: SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY There is a vibrant symbolic life and an active symbolic creativity in everyday life. a video or a blog. you will also need to help the reader find the ‘exhibits’. Make a body of visual research based around how this individual expresses their identity. If you want to test the transfer you can make a brief multiple-choice sheet to be used in short interviews. In this instance. You will need a group of people and a way of directing the activity back to the originator. These could be objects that are very personal and signify a particular memory. Please use this version as a suggestion only. The format may relate directly to your subject or could be an established documentary format. Our lives are actually full of expressions. tell you a lot about their attitude and outlook on life. Exercise 11 Identity Choose an individual you know well enough to be able to spend some time in their workplace and/or their home. This could be an internet-based game or something much simpler. you might consider the museum to be your immediate urban or rural environment. Ask them to translate it into one word and send this word on a postcard to another friend. everyday activities and expressions. make sound recordings. 8: JUNK AND CULTURE Exercise 12 Rubbish/Cultural objects Make an exhibition catalogue to accompany your own ‘Museum of the Ordinary’. This recipient should then make an image based on the word and send the image on to be converted into a word. such as a small booklet. The task is to bring the documentary research together in a digestible format that functions as a celebration of your chosen subject. Please be sensitive towards your subject in how you publish the work and remember to get permission from them beforehand. despite being worthless in monetary terms. The objective of this version is to give each participant the opportunity to make an interpretation of what they perceive before passing the ‘message’ on to the next person in the chain. Make an image on a postcard and post it to a friend. Look for instances where they are not actively trying to express themselves but. 185 . reinterpreting the message as a studio photograph or typesetting an original scrawled text as a magazine layout. The last person in the chain sends the work back to you.Your task is now to transfer the unofficial signs into official visual culture by using the information from the decoded advertisements. either for their historic interest or as foundart objects. which is then sent on to be made into an image. Alternatively. completing the circle and signalling the chain is complete. nevertheless. Preferably. this should be someone who does not work in the creative industries and is not the same age as you. and so on. 9: OPEN WORK Exercise 13 Interpretation There are many different ways to play Chinese whispers – a traditional parlour game. feel free to adapt it to your own style. The interviewer might ask the reader to look at the images and tick a box that attributes the imagery to a particular type of company or to a particular audience. This might entail redrawing the unofficial marks as if they were logos for a particular demographic. The postcards should then be brought or sent to a central point for a small exhibition where they are presented in the order they were made. Use your camera.

Language Wars: The Ideological Dimensions of the Debates on Bilingual Education (1997) University of Colorado. A Perfusion of Signs (1977) Indiana University Press Chapter 2 de Saussure F. Common Culture (1990) Open University Press The General Household Survey (1983–1986) (Cultural Trends p. Elements of Semiology (1967) Cape Willis P. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) Allen Lane The Penguin Press Chapter 5 Bourdieu P. Framing the Sign (1988) Basil Blackwell Thompson M. The Rules of Disorder (1977) Routledge & Kegan Paul Manco T. Two Hundred Beats Per Min. London (1988) Home Office Research Unit in Coffield F. A Perfusion of Signs (1977) Indiana University Press Eco U. Framing the Sign (1988) Basil Blackwell Sitwell S. Purity and Danger (1966) Routledge & Kegan Paul Culler J. And We All Shine On (1992) in Celant G. Conference on Vandalism. Language (1958) George Allen Galindo R.L. ibid. A Designer’s Art (1985) Yale University Press Willis P.. Philosophical Investigations (1953) in Gablik S. Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1982) MIT Press Hurd D. Vandalism: Understanding and Prevention in Helping Troubled Pupils in Schools (1989) Basil Blackwell Fuller M. The Open Work (1989) (first published 1962) Hutchinson Radius Zeman J. The History of Sexuality (1978) Pantheon Books Gautier T. Agamemnon’s Tomb (1972) in Douglas M.REFERENCES Introduction Von Bertalanffy L. Purity and Danger (1966) Routledge & Kegan Paul Chapter 9 Eco U. Language the Loaded Weapon (1980) Longman Chapter 1 Chafe W. Flyposter Frenzy (1992) Working Press Storr R.. Stencil Graffiti (2002) Thames & Hudson The Guardian 21st January 1991. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) Fontana Barthes R.A. Mythologies (1972) Paladin Chapter 4 Barthes R. Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures (1980) Routledge & Kegan Paul Marsh P. Basquiat Drawings (1990) Bulfinch Press Blinderman B. Common Culture (1990) Open University Press Austin J.S. 4. Text (1977) Fontana Jefkins F. ‘Rubbish Theory’ (1988) in Culler J. Lettering at Work (1955) The Studio Publications Hutchings R. Peirce’s Theory of Signs (1977) in Sebeok T. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) Fontana Jakobson R. Fundamentals of Language (1956) Mouton Chapter 3 de Saussure F. 186 . Language and Symbolic Power (1991) Polity Press Bloomfield L. in Rand P. The Rules of Disorder (1977) Routledge & Kegan Paul Chapter 8 Douglas M. Rosser E. 51) Marsh P. and Harré R. and Harré R. Magritte (1970) Thames & Hudson Zeman J. Music. Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value (1979) in Culler J. Keith Haring (1992) Prestel Banksy in Manco T. Language and Symbolic Power (1991) Polity Press Barthes R. Meaning and the Structure of Language (1970) University of Chicago Press Wittgenstein L. Adams and Mackay Rand P. and Fiore Q. Pop Art (1990) Thames & Hudson Horn F.3. and Halle M. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) de Saussure F.M. Peirce’s Theory of Signs (1977) in Sebeok T. Interview Chapter 7 Willis P. A Designer’s Art (1985) Yale University Press Foucault M. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Baker C. Rosser E.1. Image. Common Culture (1990) Open University Press Bourdieu P. and Waddon A.F. Knowledge and Control (1971) Collier-MacMillan Bourdieu P. The Role of the Reader (1979) Hutchinson Radius Exercises de Saussure F. General System Theory (1968) Braziller in Bolinger D. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Coffield F. (1990) in Gallery R. Stencil Graffiti (2002) Thames & Hudson Castleman C. (1978) in Coffield F. The Western Heritage of Type Design (1963) Cory. Intellectual Field and Creative Project (1966) in Young M.D. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Scottish Criminal Justice Act of 1980 (Section 78) Clarke R. How to Do Things with Words (1955) Oxford Paperbacks Chapter 6 Brake M. Advertisement Writing (1976) MacDonald & Evans Ltd McLuhan M. Denver Livingstone M.

Moving Culture (1990) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Young M. Knowledge and Control (1971) Collier-MacMillan 187 . and Waddon. Text (1977) Fontana Barthes R. Basquiat Drawings (1990) Bulfinch Press Willis P.F. Image. A Designer’s Art (1985) Yale University Press de Saussure F. How to Do Things with Words (1955) Oxford Paperbacks Baker.BIBLIOGRAPHY Austin J. Music. The Rules of Disorder (1977) Routledge & Kegan Paul McLuhan M. Keith Haring (1992) Prestel Chafe W. Pop Art (1990) Thames & Hudson Manco T.D. Basquiat Drawings (1990) Bulfinch Press Horn F. and Jantsz L. Introduction to Communication Studies (1982) Routledge Foucault M. Framing the Sign (1988) Basil Blackwell Douglas M. Fundamentals of Language (1956) Mouton Jefkins F. Language and Symbolic Power (1991) Polity Press Brake M. Vandalism: Understanding and Prevention in Helping Troubled Pupils in Schools (1989) Blackwell Barthes R. Magritte (1970) Thames & Hudson Galindo R. Elements of Semiology (1967) Cape Barthes R. Stencil Graffiti (2002) Thames & Hudson Marsh P. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) Allen Lane The Penguin Press Rand P. Empire of Signs (1982) Hill and Wang Barthes R. The Role of the Reader (1979) Hutchinson Radius Fiske J. C. Language Wars: The Ideological Dimensions of the Debates on Bilingual Education (1997) University of Colorado. The History of Sexuality (1978) Pantheon Books Frank Coffield F.A. Mythologies (1972) Paladin Barthes R. Denver Gallery R. The Open Work (1989) (first published 1982) Hutchinson Radius Eco U. Purity and Danger (1966) Routledge & Kegan Paul Eco U. Language (1958) George Allen Bolinger D. Course in General Linguistics (1974) (1st edition 1915) Fontana Seboek T. A Perfusion of Signs (1977) Indiana University Press Storr R. Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1982) MIT Press Celant G. Rosser E. The Pleasure of the Text (1975) Hill and Wang Bloomfield L. and Fiore Q. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Fuller M.L. Flyposter Frenzy (1992) Working Press Gablik S.. Meaning and the Structure of Language (1970) University of Chicago Press Cobley P. Adams and Mackay Jakobson R. and Harré R. Conference on Vandalism. Language the Loaded Weapon (1980) Longman Bourdieu P.S. The Western Heritage of Type Design (1963) Cory. Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures (1980) Routledge & Kegan Paul Castleman C. Introducing Semiotics (1999) Icon Books UK/Totem Books USA Coffield F. A.M. Lettering at Work (1955) The Studio Publications Hurd D. Common Culture (1990) Open University Press Willis P. Vandalism and Graffiti (1991) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Culler J. and Halle M. London (1988) Hutchings R. Advertisement Writing (1976) MacDonald & Evans Ltd Livingstone M.

40. 93 dialects 60 fields 84–5 legitimate language 86–9 magical act 95 Brake. 114 see also unofficial language dicents 33 differential fit 106 differentiation of dirt 152 digital codes 41. 42. 40. Frank 110 Cohen. Jean-Michel 116–18 Bhachu. 108. 86 Bourdieu. 168 analogue codes 41. Pierre cultural legitimacy 92. Jas 71 Bissoux. 118 Bloomfield. 95 authorised language 95 see also official language authorship 93 B Baker. W. 86. Bunny see Williams. 71 dirt 144–7. 152. 168 advertising 72 aesthetics of signs 174 agreement 24–5 language 18–23. 174 accessibility of arts 94 acquisitive vandalism 112 action painting 166. L. Jonathan 148. Rodrigo 160–1 de Saussure. David 19. 26 Duchamp.L.INDEX A abstract expressionism 166. 26–7 response to signs 56 Airside 57–8 alphabet 31. B. Roland language 59 myths 34. 172 Dorothy 44. Tracey 155 encyclopedia 165 see also codes 188 . Paul 72 Dawkins. 64–5. 114 Chafe. 17 Clarke. 168–70. 178–9 C Calder. 93 communication 170–2 competition 89. 108 model for sign 22 semiology 52 value 36–41 denotation 55. 74 dialects 18. Marian 66–7. 102–3 Eco. 116. 112 coded iconic message 73 codes analogue 41. David 112 dress codes 106–8 duality 17. 60 reader's role 54–5 text and image 70–3 Basquiat. 92 components 10–27 connotation 55. 174 anchorage text 74. 73 context semiotic principle 14 unofficial language 114 convention 56–61 paradigms 40–1 photography 55–6 social 146 subcultural groups 106–8 syntagms 39 thirdness 32 Criminal Justice Act (Scotland) 1980 111 Crow. Katy 102 de Filippis. 133. 112 Banderas. Andreas 176 Banksy 118 Bantjes. 62 Douglas. 93 and junk 142–61 sign interpretation 34 D danger 146–7 Davis. 71. 30 categories of signs 31 language and dialect 59. 154 antiques 148–51 arbitrary signs 17–18. J. 177 Barthes. Mary 144–7. 174 digital 41. 60. Elzo 124 E Eatock. 56 arguments 33 artefacts 154–5. art 92. 106 commercial value. Carl 93. Umberto 164–74 economic production 89 economic value 148–52 Emin. C. Alexander 170 capital 89–91 car system 59 Castleman. Craig 108–10. 71 ambiguity 166. Marcel 21 brute facts 33 Burn 64–5. Stan 112 colour 34. 71 dress 106–8 Eco 165 graffiti 109 paradigms 41 unofficial 106–9 Coffield. Ferdinand 13–16. 158–9 Culler. 154 culture cultural legitimacy 92–4 cultural production 84–5. 173 Arts Council 94 Austin. Mike 106 Broodthaers. 31. Francesca Bunny Blinderman. R. 125. 71. 154–5 Durt. 152 Downes. 76–7. Marcel 155 durability 148–52. 86. 80–1 Andre. 152 disorder 147. Daniel 24.

89–90 low culture 93–4 M McLauchlan. 114 marketing 114 Marsh. 86. M. 174 Gilmore. 108. Hazel 156–7 junk and culture 142–61 L language 14–19 authorised 95 dialects 18. Kate 137–9 Morris. 114 G G-Man 63 Galindo. 64–5. 94 H habitus 85 Halle. 134–5 meaning formation 28–49. 92 Fuller. 154 Fiore. 116–18 materials 114 schools 89 graphic design 91. Riitta 122–3 image and text 20–1. 20 malicious vandalism 112–13 Manco. Jonathan 180 Hockney. 47. 42 Jarvis. William John 81 hierarchies graffiti 109 signs 145 social groups 92 visual arts 93–4. 33. 108. Jason 47 Murphy. 48 identity dirt 152 membership groups 134–5 subcultural groups 106 symbolic creativity 133–5 ideological vandalism 112 Ikkonen. William 133 motivation 56–61 graffiti 111–12 vandalism 113 movement signifiers 168 Munn. Tom 78–9 Gautier. 118 Harré. 59. Andy 25 Gladstone. 146 official 82–103 and speech 59–60. 108 Mitchell. 36–43 and information 166–71 language 14–18 metaphor and metonym 42–3 paradigm 40–1 syntagm 39 medium as message 74 membership groups 134–5 messages information content 166 reader's interpretation 165 sources 168 text/image combinations 73–4 metaphors 42. Tristan 108. 34 interpretation abstract marks 174 contemporary art 170–1 convention 55–6 readers' role 52–4 J Jakobson. T. 106 Garside. F. 47. 140–1 Gauld. Q. James 130–1 Jefkins. 86 linguistic messages 73–4 linguistics 13–18.A 91 Hurd. 110 graffiti 108–19 acceptability 90.J. 62–3. 54 Livingstone. 132. 114 legitimate 86–9. 174 interpretants 22–3. 108. René 20. 135 form and openness 174 Foucault. 113 Hutchings. 24. 148. 94–5 gender 92 General Household Survey 132 gestures 106–8. 166 myths 60 N Nation of Graffiti Artists (NOGA) 110 noise 170. René 86–9 garment systems 39. R. 66–7 symbolic production 134 unofficial 86. Seel 60. 22 Moross. M. 133 film 93 fine arts 93–4. 71. Douglas 110. 42. Keith 116. 33. R. 116. M. 134–5 Hewitt. 64–5 information 166–72 institutionalisation 130-5 intention 172. M. 33. 151 fields 84–5. 74 firstness 32–3 flux 93–4 flyposting 114 football 107–8. 47. David 90 Home Office Research Unit 110. Marshall 74 magical act 95 Magritte. 44. P. R. Frank 72 Jones. 91 hyperinstitutionalisation 130–5 I iconic messages 73–4 iconic signs 31. 146 linguistic communities 20. 104–27. 69–81 Impressionism 168 index signs 31.F fashion 146. F.S. 48–9 metonyms 42. Lucy 94 McLuhan. 60. 146 see also linguistic langue 59 law 33 legisigns 33 legitimate language 86–9. 42 Haring. 172 non-coded iconic message 74 189 . 112 Horn. Ian 140 models 14. Alan 73 music 41. 154 high art 132 high culture 93–4 Hitchen. Allen 90 Jones.

104–27. 66–7 statistics. high art involvement 132 stencilling 114 Storr. meaning 12 thirdness 32–3 Thompson. 108. 120–1 Sagmeister. 39 systems car 59 dirt 145 educational 86 garments 39. Michael 148–51 Timorous Beasties 45 transience. 94 readers creative role 165–6 sign interpretation 22–3. 154–5 typography 40–1 U Universal Everything 181 unlimited semiosis 34–5 unofficial language 86. David 33 signatures. Charles Sanders 13–14. 52–4 reading 50–67 relationship. 71 parasitic messages 74 parole 59 pattern 147 Peirce. text and image 72–4 relay text 74. 154–5 territories 86. 106 T taboo 144–7 tactical vandalism 112 tags 109 Tate Gallery 93. 62–3. Michael 140 P paradigms 36. 34 resources. 69–81 theory. 22 properties 32–3 reading 50–67 sinsigns 33 Sitwell. 52 signifiers 14. Peter 90. 34. 93 economic 89 symbolic 133–5 properties of signs 32–3 public involvement 132–3 Q qualisigns 33 qualities. 108 text and image 20–1. S. 59. Pete 100–1 Rosser. 33. 74 movement 168 signs aesthetics 174 categories 30–5 components 13–14 hierarchies 145 interpretation 22–3. 133. 31 open work 163–81 order 170–2 O'Shaughnessy. 154–5 semiotic categories 148–52 sign classification 33 transient 148–51. 27. 22 categories of signs 31–3 readers 52 semiosis 34 performance 166 Phillips. 42. 133–4 pleasure 113. rubbish 154–5 rhemes 33 Richardson. 146 codes 106–9 graffiti 108–9 190 . Paul 91. 52–4 models 14. E. 40–1. 152 Skegg. R. 56 syntagms 36. 16–17.INDEX O objects durable 148–52. objects 148–51. 128–41 symbolic signs 31. 34. 48–9 production cultural 84–5. Phil 62 slang 89 social groups 92 sounds as signifiers 16–18 speech 59–60. 22. 93 pictograms 170 play 112. 117–18 signification 36. graffiti 108–9. 79–80 representamen 22. 22. 16–17. 54–5 signifieds 14. Stefan 96–9 Saussure see de Saussure secondness 32–3 semiology 13 see also semiotics semiosis 34 semiotics linguistics relationship 52–4 origins 13 principles 14 Shrigley. 33. 93 phonemes 16 photography 55. sign classification 33 R Rand. 174 pop art 89–90 portfolios agreement 24–7 formation of meaning 44–9 junk and culture 156–61 linguistic community 24 official language 96–103 open work 176–81 reading signs 62–7 symbolic creativity 136–41 text and image 76–81 unofficial language 120–7 Post Typography 26. 134–5 Royal College of Art 90 rubbish resource 154–5 theory 148–53 see also junk rules 91 S Sagmeister Inc. 116 subcultural groups 106–8 symbolic creativity 59. 154–5 official language 82–103 onomatopoeic words 18.

www. 94–5.V value 76–7 commercial 92. Hannah 122 Walsh. 116 video 93. 122. 135 Z Zeegen. 141 vindictive vandalism 112 visual dialects 114 vocation 85 Von Bertalanffy. L. 171 Y young people 130–2. 44–5. Paul 59. J. 118–19 see also graffiti vernacular 114. Ludwig 20 work 133 191 . A. Lawrence 77 Zeman.indexing. Francesca Bunny 80. Michael 76 Williams. 130–5 Wittgenstein. 7 W Waddon. 112 Waldron. 164 zero value objects 151 Compiled by: Indexing Specialists (UK) Ltd.. Ian 126–7. 136 Willis. 47 objects 148–52 rubbish 148 vandalism 110–13. 93 competition 89 meaning of signs 36–43.

113. 81 – Drawings for ‘Emblem’ Magazine. 48 – Greenbuild. 2007 Client: US Green Building Council Design: Post Typography p.]. 102 – Interference (Plaque) Design: Katy Dawkins p. Map of the Area Surrounding Our Holiday Home Client: ‘Guardian’ newspaper Illustration: Tom Gauld www.wearedorothy. 2008 Documentary Illustration: William John p. Brian Morris. www. Jas Bhachu [http://cargocollective. 2002 Client: AIGA. p. it is Helpful to Try it Out for Myself First and The Audacity of Hov ‘VIBE’ Magazine title page Client: Mark Shaw. 109. 22.Shift Design: Dorothy (Phil Skegg) Photography: Shaw and Shaw p. 90 – Graduation. London 2010 p. 14. Phillip Knight Picture Research by Seel Garside Photography by the author except: Front cover – Ceramic Book by David Crow and Helen Felcey Photography: John Crabtree. 138–139 – Nike Dunk Posters Art direction and design: Kate Moross Photography: Neil Bedford Styling: Carrie Mundane www.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND PICTURE CREDITS For Martha x I would like to thank the following people for their support and patience: Wendy. 25 – Illustration for ‘Wired’ Magazine Design: Andy Gilmore www. Bob Dylan Concept and design: Ian Wright 7: SYMBOLIC CREATIVITY pp. 27 – Apostrophe Poster. A Panel of Experts © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ pp. Many thanks to all the talented individuals who kindly contributed their work. 98–99 – Keeping a Diary Supports Personal Development Art direction and concept: Stefan Sagmeister Design: Matthias Ernstberger and Stephan Walter Producer: Joanna Lee and Bert Tan Creative director: Richard Johnson Editor: Elena Ho Sponsor: MDA Singapore Design: Sagmeister Inc. Ailsa Crow 4. 123 – Commuter Thrival Concept and design: Riitta Ikonen Photography: Anja Schaffner Typography: Valerio Dilucente p. Emma Symons 5. 121 – Chaumont Poster. Paris and p. 63 – Beauty and the Beast Design: G-Man Hat Rack and Urinal © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP. Seel Garside p. 127 – Record Prints. Manchester School of Art p.timorousbeasties. Ian Wright. 124 – Veterant Skateboard/ Space Invaders Design: Elzo Durt www. 2005 Client: Artscape Design: Bruce Willen www. Mao. 2004 Client: Chaumont. 2005 Client: Neenah Paper Design: Matthias Ernstberger. 177 – Pop!Tech Poster. Ideas Taking Shape Client: Tate Liverpool Design: Burn www. 2009 Client: University of Brighton Costumes and design: Francesca Bunny Williams and Hannah Waldron www. 126 – TI/Paper Trail Design and illustration: Ian Wright www. p.Alt. p. Manchester School of Art 5: OFFICIAL LANGUAGE pp. 66–67 – If I Want to Explore a New Direction Professionally. Seel Garside and the Graphic Arts Staff at Liverpool Design Academy. 158–159 – Emblem/St Peter Design: David Crow Manchester School of Art pp. The Graphic Design staff at Manchester School of Art. VIBE. p. 48 – The New Season Client: ‘The New York Times’ Art Direction: Paul 44 – Xmas Declarations Design: Dorothy Image: Tim Sinclair www. 35 – Emily Alston Additional imagery Seel Garside. String Too Small for Use Design: Hazel Jones www. FSI FontShop International p. 169 – Wendy Pennington Illustrations p. 123 – Snowflake Concept and design: Riitta Ikonen Photography: Anni Koponen p. Michael O’Shaughnessy 3.mrianwright. 2008 Client: Abrams Inc Concept: Stefan Sagmeister Design: Stefan Sagmeister and Matthias Ernstberger Photography: Henry Leutwyler Illustration: Yuki Muramatsu and Stephan Walter Editor: Deborah Aaronson Production: Anet Sirna-Bruder pp.tomgauld. 111. The Outlaws – Patrick Young. London 2010 p. Stars and Stripes by Seel Garside p. The Farm Animals © DACS 2010 p.blogspot. p. 149.katemoross. 103 – Price-Tag Gift Wrap Design: Daniel Eatock 6: UNOFFICIAL LANGUAGE p. 2008 Art direction: Stefan Sagmeister Design: Matthias Ernstberger and Sarah Noellenheidt Client: Design Austria p. 136 – Wonderleague website screen shots Design: Francesca Bunny Williams www. 140–141 Bellini Posters Design: Ian Mitchell. 23 – Michael O’Shaughnessy p. Four Obstacles to Writing. p.a1scrapmetal. Sagmeister Inc 2: HOW MEANING IS FORMED p. 180 – Automatic Drawings Design: Jonathan Hitchen p. Post Typography p. Paris and DACS. France Design: Sagmeister Inc. Post Typography 3: READING THE SIGN p. London 2010 p. Mrs Musgrove p. Michael O’Shaughnessy. 77 – Liar (self promo) Design: Lawrence Zeegen George and Martha Crow. 80 – Pixie Shoes Illustration: Francesca Bunny Williams www. Liverpool Design Academy 8: JUNK AND CULTURE pp. p. Paris and 9: OPEN WORK p. 122 – Open Day Poster. 176 – Self-commissioned work Design: Andreas Banderas http://andreasbanderas. 155 – Marcel Duchamp. 178–179 – Alma De Santiago Design: Burn p. 160–161 – Guarda el Polvo and Aparejo Potencial collages Design: Rodrigo de Filippis www. 26 – Alphabet Exhibition Poster. 181 – Forever. 137 – T-Post T-shirt subscription magazine (Image courtesy of T-Post) Design: Kate Moross pp. 125 – Wastebin self-promotional work Design: Burn p. 78–79 – ‘Guardian’ letters: 3D Friends. 20 – René Magritte. 150 – All photographs on these pages are reproduced with the kind permission of F-Stop images.birdbrid.elzo. p. Michael O’ p. 76 – Leonardo Book Cover Client: New York School of Visual Arts Design: Michael Walsh p. 21 – Marcel Broodthaers. 62 – War School Poster Client: Ctrl. 96–97 – Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far. 64–65 –The Fifth Floor. 117 – Jean-Michel Basquiat. 45 – Glasgow and London Toiles Design: Timorous Beasties www. 2008 Client: Victoria & Albert Museum Design and art direction: Universal Everything 192 . 100–101 – Pint Glass Design: Peter Richardson Photography: Nick Bentley peter@villagegreenstudio. David Crow 7. Johnny Hannah and Paul Farrington Portfolios 1: COMPONENTS p. Drew. Seel Garside. 13. 14. Chapters Chapter-opener numbers: 1. Joe Stothard 2. Seel Garside 9. p. 2008 Client: Pop!Tech Artwork: Marian Bantjes pp. The Betrayal of Images © ADAGP. Baltimore Design: Bruce Willen. New York Art direction: Stefan Sagmeister Design: Matthias Ernstberger 3D illustration: Aaron Hockett Illustration: Gao Ming. Lucy Wilson 6. 156–157 – Chocolate Button Safe. Ailsa. David Shrigley. 49 – Racism Erases Face Poster. p. 24 – No Smoking Direction: Daniel Eatock 2008 Artwork: Marian p. 2007 Client: Stefan Sagmeister Artwork and photography: Marian Bantjes 4: TEXT AND IMAGE p. 32 – Image three. Caroline Walmsley and Helen Stone at AVA Publishing. 120 – Design Austria Poster. 46–47 – Posters Design: Jason Munn/The Small Stakes p.

Basic semiotic theories are taught in most art schools as part of a contextual studies programme.avabooks.avabooks. This second edition of Visible Signs is an update to the popular first edition of the same name. they offer an essential exploration of the subject. Packed with examples from students and professionals and fully illustrated with clear diagrams and inspiring imagery. As a freelance designer he worked for a range of clients in the cultural sector including Rolling Stones Records. with illustrative examples taken from contemporary art and design. but many students find it difficult to understand how these ideas might impact on their own practice.00 411429 . Features substantial new and revised content. Showcases 200 colour visuals specifically created to illustrate the ideas discussed in the text. in which David Crow introduces design students to the fundamentals of semiotics. and language and speech are all explored within the framework of graphic design and the visual arts. He subsequently worked as a designer in London for Assorted iMaGes and as Art Director for Island Records before running his own consultancy. 9 782940 £ AVA Academia’s Required Reading Range: Course Reader titles are designed to support visual arts students throughout the lifetime of an undergraduate degree. Concepts such as signs and signifiers. R R ISBN 13: 978-2-940411-42-9 David Crow studied Communication Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. Required Reading Range Course Reader R Addresses the lack of an accessible and visually interesting publication on the topic of semiotics. student exercises and 200 visuals that have been specifically sourced to best illustrate the ideas discussed within the http://blog. Phonogram and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Crow then moved into academia as Head of the Department of Graphic Arts at Liverpool John Moores University. He is currently Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University. The second edition features new content and includes case studies. Visible Signs tackles this problem by explaining semiotic terms and theories in relation to visual communication.www. Virgin Records.

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